After nearly shocking the Michigan Wolverines last weekend, the Bentley Falcons continued their five game road trip to open up the season with a Friday night matchup against the UMass Minutemen in the Mullins Center before traveling to Hamden, CT and the campus of Quinnipiac University to play the Bobcats on Friday. These two games closed out the Bentley out-of-conference schedule for now, as they’ll head back to Connecticut to take on Sacred Heart in their conference opener on Tuesday, before opening up their home schedule with a much ballyhooed weekend set against ECAC’s Clarkson University.
But Bentley struggled to maintain a full, 60-minute game for the second straight weekend, coughing up a 2-1 after one and 2-2 tie after two to the Minutemen by struggling in the third period, giving up three goals en route to a 5-3 defeat. On Tuesday, the Falcons trailed only by one after the first period before coming unglued in the second period. Losing their composure against Qpac, the Bobcats capitalized and scored four in the second and third combined to win, 6-1. The losses dropped Bentley to a strong 0-4-0, still on the verge but not quite getting their first victory of the year.
Here’s a look at the weekend report card:
The Bentley offense keeps getting better and better. The Falcons led the Minutemen, 2-1, after the first period on Friday and cut a UMass lead from 4-2 to 4-3 with late scoring. Aaron Stonacek potted his first of the year barely two minutes into the game, setting the tone for the team. He was aided by Alex Grieve, who notched his second of the season on the power play late in the frame. The fact that Bentley’s special teams are actually contributing this year is a big plus because it allows them to capitalize on other teams’ errors. Scoring on the power play, and doing it against good teams, is something that will be arguably the biggest step towards a Bentley rise in Atlantic Hockey.
The Falcons only mustered one goal against Quinnipiac, but it came early when they were mentally still in the game. During the Qpac game, which we’ll cover more in-depth in a bit, Bentley ultimately came unglued and unhinged, resulting in a mental breakdown that really cost them the rest of the game. But for the first 20 minutes, they were really dialed in and dialed up on Quinnipiac, as Brett Gensler scored with assists to Grieve and Brett Switzer.
Joe Campanelli added his first tally of the season as the third Bentley goal against UMass.
The defense is still struggling to clear their own end. Against UMass, they were outshot 20-3 in the second period, and Qpac outshot them 23-3 in the same frame on Tuesday. That struggle to clear the net is resulting in failed clears, rebound opportunities, and an overall firing range on whoever’s in net. That’s something that absolutely needs to improve, since it’ll be the key to giving the offense opportunities to bury teams. Instead of trailing 4-1 to Qpac or being tied with the Minutemen, 2-2, after two, the Bentley defense could have given the offense chances to do their work, which may have led to a different outcome, especially on Friday.
The defense also came absolutely unhinged against Quinnipiac. Long known for a physical style, Bentley bordered on homicidal during the Tuesday game, and the pesty Bobcat players got under Falcon skin. Ironically, that’s what Bentley typically does to other teams, playing instigator roles and making the games physical and tough, especially when they’re playing a team that’s more talented. But
Mike Switzer received 15 minutes in penalties and a game misconduct for a contact to the head call late in the second after Qpac potted two goals, robbing Bentley of its top defenseman. They also absorbed two misconducts in the third period, as Trent Bonnett and Zach Marginsky received 12 minutes apiece (a minor and a misconduct) for roughings. That meant the Bentley defense was without half its unit for half the third period, and that has to be unacceptable to the coaching staff.
Still, it’s hard to give the Bentley defense a fully deficient grade on the weekend because it would overshadow their performance against UMass. For the first and third periods, they played strong, and despite the bonafide shooting gallery in Period #2, UMass only scored once, and, honestly, we’re not sure if the official scorer took certain, um, liberties with his scoring.
Either way, the defense has to get better and needs to avoid the mental breakdown against Sacred Heart next Tuesday.
Brandon Komm did everything humanly possible to give Bentley a win this weekend, stopping 42 against UMass and 45 against Quinnipiac. The fact the defense hung him out to dry at times didn’t help his cause at all, and when one considers that twice over the weekend Bentley surrendered 20 shots in a period and only came away with one and two goals, respectively, it’s a full credit to him. This was the coming out party Komm needed to enjoy after last season’s injury-riddled campaign, and he was superhuman. It’s expected that Kyle Rank will step back into a game at some point and spell Komm, especially if he’s going to face 45-50 shots per game. But, for this weekend, Komm seemingly solidified himself as the team’s #1 goaltender.
We all got to see what the Bentley coaching staff saw in him when he was recruited last season.
It’s still early, but fans on message boards are becoming impatient with the Falcons not playing three full periods. They have a solid chance for revenge after last season’s collapse against Sacred Heart this weekend before playing the weakest team in ECAC. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t come out of next week with at least one or two victories, especially if they play smart. Mentally, they need to put the Quinnipiac game to rest, because it wasn’t the finest hour for the Falcons. They played poorly after the first period, and they reverted to bad habits of taking bad penalties. Regardless of if there were ticky-tack penalty calls or if they were instigated, they have to play above 51 penalty minutes on 12 whistles. And they absolutely HAVE to do better in limiting shot totals if they’re going to struggle clearing the puck. Still, all of this can be chalked up to playing superior opponents outside of conference play, even though that excuse doesn’t fly at all against Sacred Heart.
It’s almost impossible to overlook the Quinnipiac game as being a massive step back, but it’s up to the team to make sure we look at it as a fluke game instead of the start of a trend. It starts on Tuesday against Sacred Heart. We fully discount the grade because of the Qpac game; it’s like passing the first test and flunking the second. It results in a barely-passing, C-average grade.