OMAHA, Neb. — If Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist has his way, the Falcons’ 6-4 win Friday over Nebraska-Omaha will only be the beginning of a very successful season.
Friday’s visitors at CenturyLink Center didn’t attack in waves like UNO did and were outshot 38-25 on the night by the Mavericks. Bentley was by far the more opportunistic team, however, and made the top-quality chances it got count.
“We did have some really good chances,” Soderquist said. “And sometimes, [the shot count was] a little lopsided, but I liked our Grade ‘A’ chances versus [UNO's] Grade ‘A’ chances, so we’ll take that.
“Obviously, I liked the way that our team battled for its first time on the ice this year against an opponent, so I thought we did a good job of trying to block some shots and battling and obviously, most important, we had phenomenal goaltending, and if your goalie plays like that any night, you’re going to have a good chance to win. Our goalscorers scored, our goaltender played phenomenal and our ‘D’ played solid when they had to make plays.”
Although Friday’s tilt was Bentley’s first game of the season – Bentley didn’t have an exhibition game scheduled for the 2013-14 campaign – the Falcons looked right from the opening faceoff like what Soderquist hopes will be his team’s midseason form.
UNO commonly starts fast at home, but it was Bentley that got on the scoreboard first.
Sophomore forward Derek Bacon did the honors, partaking in a two-on-one into the UNO zone with Jared Rickord before beating Ryan Massa low from close range 4:19 into the first period.
Things got worse for UNO at 15:17 of the same frame. Freshman forward Max French got his first goal as a Falcon to double Bentley’s lead, latching into a rebound from a Zach Ledford shot before scoring from the slot past Massa.
The Mavericks threw themselves a lifeline, though, before the first period ended. Defenseman Nick Seeler ringed a wrister from the high slot beyond Bentley goalie Branden Komm and in off the right post at 16:49.
UNO then equalized 1:22 into the second period when forward Zahn Raubenheimer deflected past Komm a James Polk shot from the left point.
Soon after that, however, things reverted southward for the hosts.
French gave Bentley its second lead of the night with his second goal of the game 2:07 after Raubenheimer’s strike. This tally came off more of an individual effort than his first goal was, with French barreling down the right channel into UNO’s zone before roofing a shot past Massa glove-side into the top corner at the near side.
The freshman was one of Bentley’s most prized recruits coming into this season and Soderquist was pleased with French’s first performance at the college level.
“We were very excited [because] he was a big recruit coming in, so with his speed, it’s something that can catch teams by surprise,” said Soderquist. “He had a shorthanded goal tonight and broke by their defenders a couple of times, so we’re very excited for him.”
Just 2:13 after French netted his second goal of the night, Falcons’ junior forward Alex Grieve made it 4-2 in favor of the visitors. Massa again couldn’t get his glove to the top corner of the net in time when Grieve drilled a shot from the right-hand faceoff circle into the net.
Bentley senior forward Brett Gensler then gave the visitors a three-goal lead with 1:43 remaining in the second period. Taking a pretty centering feed from defenseman Steve Weinstein at the far wall, last year’s scoring leader for the Falcons buried a shot past Massa from just outside the goalie’s crease.
UNO later made things interesting with two goals 1:52 apart from the third period from forwards Josh Archibald and Austin Ortega. However, what would’ve been a second game-tying goal of the night for the Mavericks never materialized.
Instead, Bentley added a sixth goal when Gensler scored into an empty net with just under 20 seconds remaining in the game.
For Mavericks’ coach Dean Blais, his team missing on some of its opportunities was what gave Bentley the upper hand and eventually, the win.
“I think we still had our shots, our opportunities,” Blais said. “We didn’t get the puck through a couple of times, a bounce, and away [the Falcons] go.”
After the game, French acknowledged his own contribution to the Falcons’ success, but he felt the team as a whole had a solid performance and deserved its victory.
“We came in here and knew that we had a tough opponent, but we knew that if we kept to our guns and kept working hard, we’d be able to come out on top if we did everything right,” French said. “We pushed and we pushed and got some breaks and I just put the puck in the net and Komm stood on his head for us.”
The Falcons don’t have a lot of turnaround time before they hit the ice again, as these two teams will close out their weekend series Saturday night in Omaha. French’s general message after the game was based on that quick return to action: Onto the next game.
“The big thing is being consistent and last season, we ran into some problems with consistency, so that’s one thing we’re going to strive for this year,” French said. “We’ve got Game 1 in the books now and now we’re focusing on Game 2 tomorrow.”