Defense a strength for Bentley, but scoring goals likely to be a challenge

The Bentley Falcons had a hard time scoring goals last season, and the loss of two of their top three forwards presents a difficult challenge.

Eric Peterson, who was second on the team with 12 goals last season, has graduated, along with linemate Dustin Cloutier (10 goals).

Back is sophomore Brett Gensler, who had a very good rookie campaign, leading the team in goals with 13, which was tied for second among all rookie forwards in the league. Juniors Joe Campanelli and Brett Hartung are also expected to take on bigger roles and improve the power play, which converted less than 9 percent of the time last season.

The defense returns intact and should be one of the team’s strengths. With goaltender Joe Calvi gone, coach Ryan Soderquist will look to senior Kyle Rank as well as sophomore Branden Komm and rookie Blake Dougherty.

Bentley faces what could be its toughest non-conference schedule ever, with games against Michigan, Yale, Quinnipiac, Massachusetts and Clarkson. Six of its first seven games are against non-conference opponents, including a pair at Michigan to open the season.

“We are excited to be playing the most aggressive non-league schedule in the history of our program,” Soderquist said in a statement. “Opening the season at the University of Michigan, a team with nine NCAA championships, will prove to be the biggest games we have ever played as a Division I program.”

About the Falcons

2010-11 overall record: 10-18-6

2010-11 AHA record: 9-13-5-0-0 (10th)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): 10th

Key losses: Eric Peterson (F), Dustin Cloutier (F), Joe Calvi (G)

Players to watch: Brett Gensler (so., F), Joe Campanelli (jr., F), Brett Hartung (jr., F), Kyle Rank (sr., G)

Impact rookie: Defenseman Matt Maher had 40 points last year, the most for a defenseman in the BCHL.

Why the Falcons will finish higher than the coaches poll: Bentley returns eight of its top 10 scorers and a full complement of blue liners.

Why the Falcons will finish lower than the coaches poll: The Falcons were 11th in offense last year and need more points from returning players.