Last year, the Bentley Falcons took a “happy to be there” approach to their opening weekend games at Michigan. They used the two-game slate at historic Yost Ice Arena as a chance to grow as a team, learn how to play two-way hockey against a quality opponent, and start putting the program on the map.
This year, Bentley returns to Michigan for one game as opposed to two, but the attitude around the team will be different. The Falcons will take on the Wolverines in their third game of the season on October 19th, part of an aggressive and ambitious non-conference schedule released last week officially through the Bentley athletic department. The schedule will feature road games against Harvard, UMass-Lowell, and Northeastern, as well as a home game against NCAA hockey’s southernmost team, Alabama-Huntsville. It will also feature a return trip for Bentley to the site of their bitter playoff defeat last season, RIT.
“The upcoming season is a great chance for us to raise our local profile,” said head coach Ryan Soderquist when the schedule was being formalized in May. “We’ll have some good, solid teams we can compete against, while at the same time we’ll have a chance to play on the local radar against some well-known, well-established programs.”
Among those non-conference games will be the opening game of the year, a renewal of a budding rivalry with UMass-Lowell. The River Hawks were the surprise team of Hockey East a year ago, coming within one win of a trip to the Frozen Four before they lost to Union in the East Regional Final. The game, played at Tsongas Arena on October 13th at 7:05, was supposed to be part of a home-and-home, but instead Bentley will host UML next season in 2013-2014.
Bentley opens up their conference slate on a Tuesday night before taking off for Michigan when they host Sacred Heart at the John A. Ryan Arena on 10/16. They’ll finish a three-games-in-one-week start to the season with the return trip to Yost before returning home to face Alabama-Huntsville on October 26th. The next night on Saturday 10/27, they’ll play their first ever game against a Beanpot school that’s not Northeastern when they travel to Cambridge for a game with one of ECAC’s Ivy League members, Harvard.
“That’s a great opportunity for us as a team,” said Coach Soderquist. “We originally had two games planned against Alabama, but the opportunity came for us to play on the road against a good local program. That game against Harvard gives us a chance to really raise our local profile against a team that’s a Beanpot school and historically one of the stronger teams in their league.”
The conference schedule gets going after the Harvard game when Bentley continues what amounts to a five-game road swing. After the Crimson game, they’ll head to Robert Morris for the first time on November 2nd and 3rd, Holy Cross on November 9th, and AIC on November 16th before hosting UConn on 11/17 at the JAR. That UConn game will mark the teams’ first meeting since the Huskies were announced as the 12th Hockey East program.
The UConn game starts a span for Bentley where they’ll play six out of seven games at home and seven out of eight games in Massachusetts. They’ll host Mercyhurst following Thanksgiving on 11/23 and 11/24, then host Army on 11/29. Two days after the Army game, the Falcons head out of the home Commonwealth to play Dartmouth in Hanover before hosting defending Atlantic Hockey champion Air Force on December 7th and 8th. Bentley rounds out the stretch at Matthews Arena and Northeastern on January 5th.
“It’ll be great to renew a rivalry with Northeastern,” said Coach Soderquist. “That’s a team we’ve played against, had a little bit of success against, and again, it helps us on the local radar. We’re looking forward to playing them and Dartmouth to really set ourselves as a team to look at in the region.”
January 11th and 12th will feature the marquee matchup for diehard Falcon fans when the team travels back to the Ritter Arena in Rochester, New York for two games against RIT. The Tigers eliminated the Falcons in last year’s AHA Quarterfinals series after Bentley dominated to win Game 1. The locals rallied from down 4-1 in the third period to force an eventual second overtime before the Tigers won to force Game 3. In that Game 3, a gassed Bentley team lost to RIT, eliminated after being ever so close to the program’s first trip to the conference championship weekend since 2009.
After the RIT series, Bentley plays its final full weekend of home games when they host Canisius on January 18th and 19th. They’ll then play home-and-homes the rest of the way with eastern scheduling pod teams, save for a February 1-2 matchup at Niagara. Holy Cross is at the Hart Center and the JAR on 1/25 and 1/26, with UConn at home and away on 2/8 and 2/9. Bentley rounds out the season with Army, Sacred Heart, and AIC, in succession.
Excalibur Sports will be carrying the majority of Bentley hockey broadcasts, with the schedule still as yet to be finalized. Full coverage will be released as the season draws near.
Bentley is also planning a night of remembrance for their fallen teammate, Michael Eden. Eden, who came to the Falcons through the Team Impact organization, passed away this summer after a lengthy, courageous fight against cancer, and the team is reportedly working on a way to honor their comrade. “We’re not sure how it’s going to be done, but we’ll make sure we do it right and present it in a way that honors him properly,” said Coach Soderquist.
Bentley is coming off a season in which they amassed 16 wins and came within one of the conference championship weekend. They were within one last weekend slate of a first round bye, and they’ll be returning a core of players featuring Brett Gensler, the reigning Walter Brown Award winner as the best American-born hockey player at a D-1 college. Gensler beat out a cast including Chris Kreider from Boston College, who went onto star for the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Also returning for the Falcons are Brett Switzer and Alex Grieve, with Branden Komm manning the pipes. Nearly all front skaters return, although the defense will be a concern in the early goings with the loss of key pieces like Mike Switzer, Trent Bonnett, Jamie Nudy, and Ryan Kayfes.