Does everyone remember NBA Jam? It’s the old arcade game that came out in the 1990s and revolutionized sports games at the time. Each team played two guys, one of which could usually dunk out of the gym and one who could hit a three from everywhere on the basketball court. The commentary was electric; if you hit three shots in a row before your opponent did, your player was considered “on fire,” meaning he wouldn’t miss – at all – until you gave up points.
The best quote of the entire game was when the announcer would yell “BOOMSHAKALAKA” after a flaming inferno of a dunk.
And that, my friends, is the best way to describe the Bentley Falcons.
Bentley ventured into non-conference games against ECAC teams last week with a four-game winning streak. The Falcons extended to five by beating Brown on Wednesday night, 3-1, before pounding Dartmouth, 5-1, on Saturday. The first half of their season is now complete, and the formerly 1-7-2 Falcons are 7-7-3, exactly .500 as exams and holidays await.
The win on Wednesday stemmed from a dominant first period where the Falcons outshot an underrated Bears team by a 13-4 margin. Brown rallied from there, pounding Bentley goalie Aidan Pelino for in the second and third to the tune of a 28-9 margin. But an opportunistic Connor Brassard scored twice, including a power play goal in the third period, to salt away a Brown team that later tied Vermont at the end of the week.
Saturday followed a similar formula. Bentley outshot Dartmouth in the first and second periods, first by one and second by three, before absorbing a 17-3 disadvantage in the third. But by then the Falcons led 4-0 behind four different goal scorers, including three in the third period. The Big Green added one in the third, but by then it was too late.
Bentley enters its exam break as one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Falcons are fourth among unbeaten teams behind Notre Dame (13-0-0), Clarkson (11-0-0) and Penn State (6-0-2 in its last eight). The third-longest winning streak in the nation ensures they won’t lose before at least a game against Northeastern in January, a game that may feature a Huskies team potentially on a five-game winning streak of its own.
Northeastern plays Merrimack and AIC before heading to the JAR on January 5.
Granite State Strong
On Friday night, Army West Point suffered a 4-1 setback against Merrimack. The Black Knights only mustered 19 shots, including two in the first period, and gave up three power play goals in an uncharacteristically sluggish defensive showing. After beating No. 17 Colgate the week prior, the loss was the type of inconsistency that casts questions on the next game.
But then Saturday came. As Army’s football team held off a last-second rally against Navy, the hockey team traveled up to No. 13-ranked New Hampshire and imposed its will from start to finish against the Wildcats. The Black Knights again were outshot badly, 40-21, but capitalized on their opportunities. Brendan Soucie and Tyler Pham scored in the first period, and Zach Evancho scored in the second as the team jumped out to a 3-1 lead.
A wild third period saw the teams trade goals, but the Wildcats never drew closer than one. They scored twice against goaltender Jared Dempsey, but the Army defense held serve, even after suffering a major penalty with under four minutes remaining in the game. Dempsey finished with 37 saves as Army knocked off a nationally-ranked opponent for the second time in three games.
Now wrapped up in the first half, the Black Knights continue a brutal stretch after the holidays when they travel to the Twin Cities and a pair of games with Minnesota.
Round one to Canisius
The “Battle of the Bridge” between Niagara and Canisius is arguably the best rivalry in the Empire State. Separated by 20 miles and one bridge, the Purple Eagles (north of the bridge) and Golden Griffins (south) played a home-and-home to determine who would add to wins totals in the all-sports matchup between the two schools. In addition, there was the pesky little question about who was the better team atop the Atlantic Hockey table.
Niagara struck first in the first game with 2-1 lead after two periods, but the Griffs racked up three third period strikes, one of which was an empty netter, to rally past the Purps at Dwyer Arena. Canisius kept the momentum going the next night when they foreshadowed Sunday’s lake-effect winter wonderland with an 8-2 victory.
The 12 goals are the most Canisius scored in a weekend series since scoring 10 in the two Bentley games and most in back-to-back games since scoring 12 combined between the Saturday Mercyhurst game and Friday Bentley game. It improved the Griffs to 10-4 in league play and gave them a three-point separation for first place.
Niagara entered the weekend ranked for the first time in a few years, but that unfortunately will likely come to a close. In its place will rise the blue and gold from Buffalo, who likely have done enough to earn national recognition.
As is customary with first half finales, both teams now have layoffs. Niagara will wait until after Christmas for a pair at Ohio State while heads to Cornell before New Year’s Eve.