Falcons On the Verge
Bentley Threatens to Throw Monkey Wrench Into NCAA Tournament
by Ken Belbin/CHN Correspondent
WORCESTER, Mass. On a night when Bentley was looking to continue a most unlikely run towards an AHA championship, the game turned on the most unlikely of sticks.
Sophomore Jaye Judd notched his first two goals of the season, including his second when it counted the most. In what coach Ryan Soderquist aptly called his program's "biggest win in history" the fourth seeded Falcons upended second seed and defending tournament champion Mercyhurst, 3-2, in double-overtime when Judd pounced on a rebound 58 seconds into the second extra session.
It was the second straight double OT win of the tournament for the Falcons, who knocked off Army last week.
Soderquist for one, was not surprised by his team's win or Judd's sudden break-out game. "In terms of goals, we don't judge Jaye on that. He has a good plus-minus for us and keeping a team like Mercyhurst to two goals - that's what a guy like Judd has been doing for us all year."
Soderquist also credited junior goaltender Ray Jean, who sparkled with 37 saves including 12 in a wild first overtime.
"Ray has had a great stretch through February and March," said Soderquist. "We wanted to see how or if he would emerge as a starter and carry the load and he went out and won us a bunch of games. He was magnificent for us tonight."
Overall, Soderquist saw the win in larger terms. "This is a big step for our program, but we have been playing our best hockey of late. We're optimistic. I like our chances."
The Falcons (15-16-5), who would draw even on the season with a victory in Saturday night's championship, are not only bidding on their first tournament title, but the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament that comes with it.
"We understand the stakes," said Soderquist. "But we're playing with confidence so again, I like our chances."
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin, whose squad will fall short of the NCAA's with a 22-13-2 record, was equally praising of thee Falcons' efforts.
"I congratulate them," Gotkin said. "This was no fluke and no upset. They earned this. They played us evenly and we had as many opportunities to cash in as they did. They just had that one more chance and converted. The worked hard and beat us evenly."
The loss spoiled a brilliant night for Small, who finished with 53 saves including 11 in the first overtime and kept Mercyhurst in it in the third as Bentley finished with a 19-5 margin.
"He really kept us in it when we needed him," added Gotkin. "He was a key for us."