BOSTON – Bentley started this season with a 1-6 record in October; they ended the fall semester with one of the best winning streaks in the nation.
Playing their first-ever game against Boston University, the Falcons surprised the crowd of 3,220 at Agganis Arena by thoroughly outworking and outplaying their hosts. The upshot was a decisive 4-1 win. It marked only the second time that BU has lost to an Atlantic Hockey opponent, the first being a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross back in 2011.
Senior goalie Branden Komm stopped 42 of 43 shots for the Falcons, while teammates Brett Switzer and Steve Weinstein each had two-point nights. Goalie Matt O’Connor was the clear standout for the Terriers, making 30 saves despite being hung out to dry any number of times on odd-man rushes.
“I think this game opened a lot of people’s eyes as to how good we are, but I think we felt that we were this good for a long time,” Komm said. “Things are coming together, and I can’t tell you how close this team is. We all know we’re playing on a special team, and we want to keep going as far as we can.”
You might think that there was some critical turning point for a team that has gone 7-1-1 after starting off 1-6, but Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist thinks otherwise.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think a whole lot has changed,” Soderquist said. “I thought we were playing pretty well in October. We played in some tough buildings, and we started the year with eight straight road games.
“Over the course of that time period, we did a good job of staying poised, and we built off of that … I give a tremendous amount of credit for our leadership in that locker room because starting the season like that, you could be fragile. Our leadership took care of that locker room and just kept building.”
In contrast, BU has been going the opposite direction in the last couple of weeks. After a 3-0-1 stretch capped by a stirring win over Cornell at Madison Square Garden, the Terriers ended up with a tie and two losses in December, despite playing teams they were expected to beat in Merrimack and Bentley.
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate Bentley,” BU coach David Quinn said. “I thought they were the better team tonight. They deserved to win. They’ve got some good players, and they’re well coached. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep up tonight. They were a lot more opportunistic than we were. Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to the other team, and I thought they did a great job tonight.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of good for us tonight other than our goalie.”
BU couldn’t begin to match Bentley’s speed, energy, and intensity for the first two periods. Almost 10 minutes into the game, the Falcons capitalized. The puck came out of a scrum on the boards to Steve Weinstein at the left point. He threw the puck toward the net, and Derek Bacon redirected it past O’Connor.
BU gave up a back-breaking short-handed goal at 1:40 of the second period. With Ahti Oksanen attempting to pinch, Alex Kubiak chipped the puck into the neutral zone, where Jarred Rickord raced in on a breakaway for a low shot and score.
Then Bentley made it 3-0 five minutes later when Matt Blomquist’s very long pass sprung Brett Switzer for another breakaway and goal.
At that point, Quinn called a timeout.
“We looked like a bunch of guys who had their dog shot,” Quinn said.
Nothing really changed. O’Connor’s excellent poke check prevented a Max French goal around the 12-minute mark, and the game stayed 3-0 going into the third.
BU almost scored on a power play at 13:50. Matt Grzelcyk’s shot got through Komm and hit a post before grazing the goal line. Before the whistle blew for a video review of that goal, BU put one in for real. This time, Oksanen’s shot from the right point was tipped in by Matt Lane. At that point, they reviewed the earlier close call, but it was almost a moot point: The score was going to be 3-1 whatever happened.
Danny O’Regan had a terrific chance to make it a one-goal game with three minutes left, only to have Komm make his best save of the night. A minute later, Brett Gensler sealed it with an empty-net goal.
“I’ve got to do a much better job coaching them,” Quinn said. “We can’t be giving up those chances we’re giving up. I’m embarrassed as a coach for what’s happened over the last few weeks. It’s unacceptable. Apparently, I have to be more demanding. That doesn’t mean putting them on the goal line and skating them for 45 minutes, but I’m trying to figure out how to push their buttons and how to put them in the mindset to play to the best of their abilities.
“At the end of the day, we got outworked tonight. And that’s on me. That’s my fault. That’s my no. 1 responsibility as a coach.”
BU (7-8-2) now has a solid three weeks to reflect on the loss and make some changes before returning to action against Harvard. However, they may be without O’Regan and Grzelcyk, who are both under consideration for the World Junior Championship team.
Bentley (8-7-1) looks like a team that will vie for the Atlantic Hockey championship. They will get back to work on that front when they host Holy Cross on Dec. 28.