January 18, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Bentley lands blow at Air Force

By Allen Lessels

Bentley has done its share to tighten up the Atlantic Hockey pack since the start of the new year.

The Falcons took three points from Robert Morris two weeks ago and three more at Air Force last weekend to bring those teams back to the crowd a bit, as well as improve their own status.

“We’ve played pretty hard and have been playing pretty well, and we’re getting strong goaltending right now, which makes life easier for everybody,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist.

Sophomore Branden Komm owns an impressive .929 save percentage and 2.39 goals-against average to go with his 7-7-5 record.

“He’s been playing extremely well and we’ve been strong in front of him,” Soderquist said. “On Saturday night we held Air Force to 20 shots in their own building, which is pretty hard to do, and that included seven power plays. We’re blocking a lot of shots and the defense is doing a great job of picking up second chances. Branden’s coming out aggressively and making the first save, and the defense is making sure they don’t get second and third chances.”

After a 2-2 tie on Friday night, Bentley got its first win at Air Force since 2006 on Saturday. Freshman Brett Switzer scored the 2-1 game-winner at 2:31 of the third period.

“That was one of our goals going into the weekend,” Soderquist said. “The senior class hadn’t won a game at Air Force and we didn’t want it to end that way in what we hoped was their last opportunity. It was good for the senior class and the rest to step up and get three points.”

Bentley sits in sixth place in the standings, but is only four points out of first, two out of second and one behind Air Force, Robert Morris and UConn, who are all tied for third.

Holy Cross and Niagara are another point behind Bentley, which means the top eight teams in the league are within five points of first place.

“The western teams got a little jump on things early, but over the course of the last few weeks, ourselves, Holy Cross and UConn have won some games, and it looks like it’s going to be a great, tight race,” Soderquist said.

The Falcons are right back in the thick of things this weekend with a pair of home games against RIT in another of the marquee match-ups of a weekend that also features Robert Morris at UConn and Mercyhurst at Holy Cross.

Somehow, this thing may get even tighter.

“That’s the great thing about our league,” Soderquist said. “Air Force and RIT are always strong, but I think home ice has been decided on the last weekend of the season the last four years. It’s great to be a part of it.”

Games of the Week

Robert Morris at UConn, Friday and Saturday

Will something give in a showdown in Storrs? UConn and Robert Morris are tied for third place in the Atlantic Hockey standings with Air Force. Those three trail second-place RIT by a point and leader Mercyhurst by three.

UConn, led by Cole Schneider’s three goals, took a pair at Canisius last weekend.  Robert Morris is coming off a split with Holy Cross.

Atlantic Hockey power rankings

  1. Mercyhurst (13-9-2, 10-3-2 AHA). . . . Sophomore Trent Frey’s two goals help Lakers rebound from loss to AIC.  
  2. RIT (12-8-2, 9-4-2). . . . Shane Madolora stops 20 and 21 pucks for a pair of shutouts over Sacred Heart.
  3. Air Force (10-7-4, 8-4-3). . . . Falcons, 0-2-2 in their last four games, head to Army.
  4. Robert Morris (10-9-3, 8-4-3). . . . Cody Crichton’s OT goal gives Colonials split with Holy Cross.
  5. UConn (10-10-2, 9-6-1). . . . Huskies, winners of five straight league games, host Robert Morris.  
  6. Holy Cross (10-10-1, 8-5-1). . . . Sophomore Derek Kump gets a 29-save, 1-0 shutout of Robert Morris in first start of season.
  7. Bentley (7-9-5, 7-3-4). . . . Falcons take three points at Air Force, face RIT at home.
  8. Niagara (7-8-7, 6-4-5) . . . Senior Chris Noonan stops 67 of 68 shots in 5-1, 3-0 sweep of Army.
  9. Canisius (6-13-3, 6-7-2). . . . Swept at UConn, Griffs meet Sacred Heart at home.  

10.  AIC (4-16-2, 3-10-2). . . . Junior Adam Pleskach scores two in 3-2 win over league leader Mercyhurst.

11.  Army (2-13-6, 1-11-4). . . . Two games with Air Force kick off string of three straight at home.

12.  Sacred Heart (1-20-1, 0-14-1). . . . Pioneers outscored 13-0 in two-game set with RIT.   

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.