WATERTOWN, Mass. -- Military academies always bring a hard-nosed, physical game.
Head coach Ryan Soderquist's Bentley team was ready for the challenge on Friday night, however, as the Falcons came through with a clutch goal early in the third period to down Air Force in the first of a two-game Atlantic Hockey weekend series.
"I thought our guys played 60 minutes hard and did what they needed to do to come out with the win," Soderquist said. "They’re obviously a well-conditioned team, they’re very disciplined and very well coached so certainly they’re going to finish their checks and be hard on the forecheck."
It was a different night, but the hero who tipped the Falcons over the edge was certainly nobody new.
Junior Andrew Gladiuk found the back of the net 3:51 into the final frame to lift the home-standing Falcons to their second win in three games, this time by a 2-1 count at John A. Ryan Skating Arena.
Gladiuk, the recently named AHA Player of the Month from White Rock, British Columbia, is the national leader with 12 goals on the season and has scored at least once in eight of Bentley’s first 16 games.
The game begun with a very evenly played first period in which Bentley held a 13-12 shots on goal advantage, but the visitors went ahead on the scoreboard at 19:10.
All Air Force needed was a lucky bounce to jump ahead as Bentley held the territorial edge for much of the first. Senior assistant captain Chad Demers’ initial shot bounced back into the slot where classmate Scott Holm on the spot to bang home a rebound for his team-leading seventh goal of the season and second in as many games.
The goal did not faze Bentley netminder Jayson Argue who finished the night with 33 saves, earning his second win in just his first three collegiate starts.
Bentley equalized the score on a shorthanded opportunity 8:05 into the second, another even period. Senior Alex Kubiak broke the puck out of the defensive zone and all the way down the wing, finding classmate Brett Switzer driving to the net for the finish.
Air Force dominated the third with a 16-9 shots edge and 33 overall attempts, keeping the home team uneasy but it was not enough to come up with a win.
"I thought we were on our heels there for the last eight or nine minutes of the game," Soderquist said. "They took the play to us, so I’d like to see us finish the games a little bit stronger. I thought we just stopped playing our game and allowed them to play theirs."
Gladiuk took advantage of his lone chance on net by cashing for the game-winner. Just moments after a power play expired, Air Force sophomore goaltender Chris Truehl made a stop on Switzer after the puck was kept in by the defense at the blue line but Gladiuk was on the spot to jam a rebound home.
"We came on at the end of a power play and had some sustained pressure," Gladiuk said. "I found a loose puck and just slid it under his pad. We’ve had a good start obviously, had some production on the power play and five-on-five as well. It feels like we’re gelling (as a line)."
Argue missed the first 12 games due to injury and has started strong in the early goings of his college career. He is the reigning AHA Co-Rookie of the Week after he made 23 saves in his debut last Friday, a 3-2 win over Army.
"I felt more into that game than before. I had a couple rebounds popping out but the defensemen did a good job of boxing out and cleaning those away," the Swan River, Manitoba native Argue said. "It’s been nice to get back into the lineup for sure; sitting out for that long is never fun."
The two Falcons return to the JAR, as it is affectionately known, on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. to complete the weekend series. Oddly enough, the series-opening win was Bentley’s first at home over Air Force since Feb. 14, 2009 as the visitors were 5-0-1 in their last six in Watertown entering the night, including a win and a tie two years ago.