Ryan Soderquist does not view the significance
of finishing in fourth place in Atlantic Hockey as being
able to host a quarterfinal playoff game, rather a sign
that his Bentley College program has arrived.
One point is all that stands between Bentley
and a home playoff with Army. The only way the Falcons (13-14-5)
are hitting the road on March 11 would be losing both weekend
games to Holy Cross and Army beating American International
twice, a scenario that is not too far-fetched but unlikely
"I think it's extremely important to
solidifying our program as a serious contender,'' Soderquist
said. "To lock up that fourth seed and get a home game
for the first time since turning Division I would be great
for our program.''
Soderquist said excitement about his program
has been building within the New England hockey community,
and a home playoff brings validation.
"You get that hype going around campus,''
he said. "People start saying, 'Hey, we're in the final
four versus being in the bottom four.''
The future looks bright for a Bentley team
whose three leading scorers are all freshmen. Anthony Canzoneri
(8 goals, 19 assists) is a playmaker who works hard every
night, Soderquist said. Jeff Gumear (7 assists) has 15 goals,
many coming off rebounds and from paying the physical price
in front of the net. Dain Prewitt (8 G, 12 A) has been playing
a solid right wing all season. Tom Dickhudt has two goals
and 14 assists, and is tied for sixth on the team in scoring.
"We knew that ... the incoming class
was a class that ranked right up there with the other recruiting
classes throughout the league,'' Soderquist said. "We
have come a far way in terms of recruiting.''
The Falcons have rebounded nicely from a recent
0-6-3 skid, sweeping weekend sets with Canisius and Connecticut
and outscoring the competition 15-7.
"We weren't winning games because we
weren't staying focused for 60 minutes and we weren't playing
basic hockey for 60 minutes,'' Soderquist said. "That's
where our senior class picked it up and keeping the focus
on demanding that guys play 60 minutes and that guys play
team hockey for 60 minutes.''
It also helps to get strong play from junior
netminder Ray Jean, the transfer from Maine.
"Even during that 0-6-3 stretch he had
been playing well and making all the saves he needed to
make,'' Soderquist said, "but he didn't get over the
edge and make saves that he wasn't supposed to make in order
to win us some games. He didn't lose us any games early
in the year or in that stretch but he didn't go out and
win us any games either. He has done that the last two weekends
in a row ... he has played four great games.''
One slip by Army and fourth place is in the
bag for Bentley, but that's not the way Soderquist wants
"We want to earn our home playoff spot,''
he said. "We want to win it and prove to people that
we should be there.''
Bentley finished seventh the past two seasons,
fifth in 2002-03 and 11th the previous two years.
SEEN AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
Mercy High and Sacred Low: Holy
Cross gave life to the pennant hopes of its challengers
with its two losses to Sacred Heart (4-3 in overtime and
5-2). Heading into the final weekend, Holy Cross and Sacred
Heart are tied atop the standings with 36 points and Mercyhurst
is a point back.
"We weren't ready to play both games,''
admits Holy Cross captain Pierre Napert-Frenette. "The
first game, the first 15 minutes, we weren't even there
at all. You have to give credit to Sacred Heart –
they came out flying.''
Napert-Frenette said there might have been
"a hangover" after taking three of four points
on the road at Mercyhurst the weekend previous. Following
the second loss to the Pioneers, the Holy Cross players
held a team meeting and cleared the air.
"Everything was addressed and I think
everyone will be ready to go this weekend, that's for sure,''
Napert-Frenette said. "We have to learn our lessons.''
He added: "It's a bump in the road, but
we're still in great position.''
Holy Cross plays Bentley in a home-and-home
series. The Crusaders would like to clinch the top spot
in the standings, and Bentley needs just one point to secure
the fourth spot and host Army next weekend in the quarterfinals.
Finishing first, second or third may not make
too much of a difference, given the improvement of the clubs
in the bottom half.
"Our league is so balanced,'' Napert-Frenette
said, "and in one-game (playoff) showdowns like this
Cross at Bentley (Fri.)
Bentley at Holy Cross (Sat.) The regular-season title and a home-ice playoff
berth are likely at stake in what promises to be a
spirited affair. Holy Cross won both meetings earlier
in the season, 2-1 and 4-1.
While You're There: Boston isn't
far from either school. Beantown by day, hockey by
night … what could be better? Grab the Globe
and duck the snowflakes at Faneuil Hall.
Heart, wow. The Pioneers had just one way
to stay in the race for the regular-season title,
and they pulled it off with a sweep of Holy Cross.
Sacred Heart goalie Jason Smith stopped 54 of 59 shots,
winning his duel with Holy Cross keeper Tony Quesada,
who stopped 60 of 69 shots.
On the verge
of wrapping up the regular-season title, Holy
Cross came out flat in back-to-back losses
to Sacred Heart. Tie-breakers, anyone?
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Success in Western PA: Army made a
bit of history on Saturday with its 3-2 victory over Mercyhurst.
It was the Black Knights’ first victory in 10 career
games at the Ice Center in Erie. It also gave Army its first
season series triumph (3-1) over the Lakers.
• Going cold: AIC has just one win in
its last 12 (1-8-3). The Yellow Jackets have just five goals
in the last five games.
• Falcons are soaring: Bentley recently
went 0-6-3 and dropped into fifth place. Since then, the
Falcons have rolled off weekend sweeps of Canisius and Connecticut
to regain the precious fourth position. The four consecutive
wins is a new Division I mark for the program. The magic
number for Bentley’s home-ice clinching is one point.
• Making the sinners pay: What has gotten
into Army’s power play of late? The Black-and-Gold
has converted 10 of its last 35 man-up opportunities and
has a power play goal in its last four games (five, if you
count a tally in its exhibition with Royal Military College).
• Making it respectable: Canisius has
followed its 11-game losing streak with a 5-3-1 run since
Jan. 21. Defense has been at the core of the recovery with
freshman Dan Giffin pitching three shutouts. The Golden
Griffins have moved from last place to sixth.
• Something about late February …:
Holy Cross dropped consecutive games for the first time
all season. The last time the Crusaders lost two in a row
was exactly a year ago as Mercyhurst did the trick.
• Not again: American International
set a school record with its fifth tie of the season. AIC
is 2-0-8 in its last 10 overtime games.
• Someone to lord over: American International
won its first season series in three years, topping Canisius
• In the lineup: Bentley’s Paul
Markarian and Josh Thompson broke the school record with
their 126th career appearances last weekend… Pierre
Napert-Frenette of Holy Cross has the new school mark of
139 career games.
• Bring out the broom: Atlantic Hockey
teams produced five four-game series sweeps this season,
and three more are pending this weekend. Mercyhurst has
swept Connecticut, American International and Bentley. Also,
Sacred Heart has blanked Canisius and Bentley swept Connecticut.
This weekend, sweeps can be finished off by
Holy Cross (over Bentley), Mercyhurst (over Canisius) and
Connecticut (over Sacred Heart).
• League single-season record watch:
Dave Borrelli of Mercyhurst is third all-time in goals (25),
four behind record-holder Shawn Mansoff of Quinnipiac …
Jamie Hunt of Mercyhurst ranks third in assists (32) …
Tyler McGregor of Holy Cross, Pierre-Luc O’Brien of
Sacred Heart and McGregor are tied for eighth in points
(46), 10 behind Mansoff … The Mercyhurst trio of Ben
Cottreau (25), Borrelli (24) and Hunt (22) rank 2-3-4 in
power play points behind Reid Cashman of Quinnipiac (26)
… Borelli (12) and McGregor (11) rank 2-3 in power
play goals behind O’Brien (13) … Borrelli and
Cottreau have tied the short-handed points mark of six set
by Mansoff … Borrelli needs one short-handed goal
to tie Mansoff’s mark of five … Bear Trapp of
Sacred Heart needs one game-winning goal to tie Quinnipiac’s
Chris Cerrella with seven … Hunt needs three points
to tie Cashman for most points by a defenseman (45) …
Sacred Heart goaltender Jason Smith owns the top goals-against
mark (2.12) and is tied for best save percentage (.932)
with Jamie Holden of Quinnipiac.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.