WATERTOWN, Mass. — Bentley senior Erik Peterson had a goal, two assists, and a game-saving blocked shot with less than 10 seconds to play as the Falcons defeated the UConn Huskies, 4-2, at the John A. Ryan Skating Arena on Friday night.
The win tied Bentley and UConn for second place in Atlantic Hockey’s eastern scheduling pod at 22 points apiece, and it clinched the season series for the Falcons. Bentley improved to 10-15-5, 9-11-4 in Atlantic Hockey, while UConn fell to 10-17-4, 10-12-2 in Atlantic Hockey. It also allows Bentley to control their own destiny for a first round bye in the 2011 Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
“This was a complete team effort,” said Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist. “Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve stressed that everyone needs to be a team player. We can’t worry about individual points, shifts, and accomplishments. I’m proud with how our team practiced this week and played (on Friday). We did the little things that teams do to win games.”
Scoring got underway in the first period, when Bentley’s captain, Dustin Cloutier, scored on the power play at 6:38. After Peterson’s initial strike rattled off Connecticut netminder Garrett Bartus, Cloutier scooped up the rebound and wristed it top shelf and glove side to make it 1-0. The game remained at that tally into the second, as UConn outshot Bentley 11-7 in the first period.
In the second frame, things started to get wild. UConn tied it up at 5:03 on a Justin Hernandez put back. Mike Switzer tried to clear the puck out of the Bentley defensive end, but it caromed in front of his goalie, Kyle Rank. Rank tried to cover, but Hernandez had the extra effort to shove it five-hole to tie it at 1-1.
Roughly 10 minutes later, Peterson nearly made it 2-1 when he fought through a hook by Jason Krispel. Krispel’s head-up penalty kept the score tied, but it put UConn down a man. Peterson then capitalized, serving a feed from Brett Gensler by Bartus to take the one goal lead.
“(Gensler) is great at creating shots,” said Peterson. “He is able to look off the point, then go across ice. When he has time to make a play happen, it’s scary.”
Once again, though, UConn rallied, potting a 2-on-1 advantage by Brant Harris at 15:49. Through two periods, the score was deadlocked at 2-2.
But, in the third, Justin Breton scored what might be considered the goal of the year. Intercepting a UConn pass, he charged through center ice. Huskie defenseman Tom Janosz hooked him but Breton managed to get the puck on his back hand as he came in on Bartus’s left. As Janosz hauled Breton down, the Bentley freshman got just enough of the puck to beat Bartus’s leg pad and make it a 3-2 game.
“That was a fun goal to watch,” said Soderquist. “It was a tremendous effort, and it’s the result of the phenomenal shifts he puts in. He really grinds it out, and he’s starting to break out now, which is huge for us.”
Trailing by one, UConn pulled Bartus. With under 30 ticks on the clock, a faceoff win by Sean Ambrosie set up a wrister from Matt Miller that Rank gloved down. “He bailed us out,” said Soderquist. “That saved the game with 15 seconds left.”
But UConn has one trick left in their sleeve. With another faceoff win in the Bentley end, they got the puck at the top point to senior captain Andrew Olson. Olson uncorked a laser that Peterson kicked away. As he crumpled to the ice, the puck glided towards the open cage. It missed by less than a foot, but was collected by Gensler and put across the line for the 4-2 victory.
Although both have an inside track on the first round bye, the winner of this weekend will also be able to lay claim to eighth place in the standings. Both are two points behind seventh-place Mercyhurst, who lost to Air Force, and four back of that same Air Force team. They also stand one point in front of Canisius for overall 9th and two points in front of Army for 10th. In the east, the winner will be one win away from clinching a first round bye, while the loser stands to host AIC in the AHA first round.
“We try to go day by day,” said UConn head coach Bruce Marshall, “but now we’ve lost a day. Bentley did the little things to win a game, and now we have to come back and beat them (on Saturday).”
Game time is at 7:05 at the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs.