For the Bentley University Falcons, the hockey program has always had a history of solid goaltending. From Ray Jean to Simon St. Pierre, Joe Calvi to Branden Komm, stopping the puck has never really been an issue. And as time’s moved on, the Falcons only keep getting better. Calvi set the single-season record for shots saved in 2007-2008 when he stopped 936 shots, only to have his predecessor break the record for best goals against average.
Jean continued to be the standard bearer in save percentage, while St. Pierre held the record for most minutes played. Almost all of those records fell last year when Komm turned in a season for the record books. Winning 16 games, he put together three shutouts en route to a 91% save percentage and 2.41 goals against average. At times, his acrobatics stopped the best shooters in the conference and the nation, and as his body logged minutes, he stood, as a sophomore, alongside only RIT and Niagara as the league’s elite.
But Komm was hardly alone. His understudy, Blake Dougherty, stepped in as a freshman at times when Komm’s body seemed to be logging too many minutes. Dougherty, originally thought of as a potential redshirt prospect, was forced into action on numerous occasions. He recorded just one decision, a tie, but he showed flashes of greatness down the stretch. His potential was temporarily derailed when his ACL tore during the final game of the regular season, and as he comes back from that injury, the Falcons looked to add another to their growing reputation as “Goaltender U.”
That’s where Gabe Antoni comes in. A native of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Antoni spent last season in a split between the United State Hockey League and the North American Hockey League in the juniors system. Playing 16 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, he amassed a 10-4-1 record and 2.65 GAA. Following a trade to the Springfield Jr. Blues, he improved even more, posting a shutout while improving his save percentage to 91.4%.
Antoni combined for a 24-4-2 record over the two leagues last season, and he joins the stable of Bentley goalies with a chance to make an immediate impact. His presence will allow Bentley to bring Dougherty back more slowly while providing insurance the incumbent Komm, one of Atlantic Hockey’s elite but at the same time a goalie who saw, at times, too many minutes in a short amount of time. Coach Ryan Soderquist even admitted there were times when he should’ve sat Komm down for a game or two, especially early on in the year before the grind really got going. With Bentley opening up the season with three games in their first week, two of which are non conference games bookending the AHA opener, Antoni will have a chance to step right in and make an impact on the Falcons.
We sat down with Gabe Antoni to discuss goaltending and his desire to help Bentley as a freshman for the 2012-2013 season:
Excalibur: You’re stepping into a position with Bentley where there’s a history of solid goaltending, even dating back over 10 years to when Bentley was still at the Division II level. What is it that you’ll bring to the roster whne you’re given the opportunity to step on the ice?
Gabe Antoni: I feel the opportunity at Bentley for me personally is great. But when I’m given the chance to step on the ice, I hope to help the team in any way possible. We are going to have a great team, and I hope to be able to do everything within my control to the best of my ability to help the team win games and accomplish our goals.
EXC: Your juniors experience was a little unique where you actually played for two teams last year. What was it you learned playing for two different teams and how do you hope that translates to the college scene?
GA: Despite not being in school for the year, I feel as though I still learned a whole lot about life lessons and things not taught in the classroom. I feel being traded helped me deal with adversity and become stronger as an individual.
EXC: What is it about Bentley that made you want to come here?
GA: I felt really good about the people at Bentley. Everyone I’ve talked to through the recruiting process was really genuine. I felt really comfortable with the entire situation.
EXC: How have your initial interactions been with the current members of the team?
GA: I’ve only met a couple of the guys on the team, but with the combination of the coaching staff, I feel it will be a very tight knit group of guys. That will lead to a lot of success for the team.
EXC: They say goalies bring a different mentality to the game from skaters. What is it that you enjoy most about stopping the puck, and do you have any pregame rituals?
GA: I try not to get too crazy with pre-game rituals. I love being able to help the team by playing such a key position such as goalie. It lets me do everything I can and whatever possible so the team can be successful.
EXC: One of the things being written about Bentley is that they’re a program on the rise. With that, the team’s really enjoyed some great fan support both on and off the ice that’s brought new life and energy to the program. What does that mean for you to show up at the games, step on the ice, and have some good loud crowds?
GA: Fans are great to have at our games to support us as well as the school. They make it tougher for other teams to come to our rink and play us. It’s great being able to give back to the people who support us and help us to be successful.
EXC: One last question. Flyers or Penguins?
GA: I’m from a suburb of Philly, so 100% Flyers.