Worcester, Ma. – The Bentley Falcons came back from two goals down in the first period to hold off the Holy Cross Crusaders in front of 537 at the Hart Center Rink. Sophomore goalie Nicholas Grabko turned back 24 shots to earn his third win of the young season. Drew Bavaro‘s power-play goal in the second period proved to be the difference for the Falcons. Despite giving up the two-goal lead, the Crusaders fought until the final buzzer of this Atlantic Hockey showdown.
The Falcons gave the Crusaders the early power-play opportunity at 5:35 of the first when defenseman Matt Lombardozzi was called for Interference. The Crusaders wasted little time in capitalizing on the man advantage. Sophomore Matt Guerra raced down the right side and fired a shot on Falcons goalie Grabko that somehow managed its way past the sophomore from Channon, IL. The goal was Guerra’s first of the 2021-22 season. Nick Hale and Tyler Ghirardosi were credited with the helpers.
Just over a minute later, the Crusaders made it 2-0 when Lucas Thorne tipped an Anthony Vincent shot from the top of the right circle past Grabko. The goal was Thorne’s second of the year and Vincent’s first point of 2021-22.
Bentley climbed back into the game at 13:59 when Freshman Tanner Main wristed a floater from the blueline past Matt Radomsky (18 saves) for his first NCAA goal. Matt Gosiewski and Harrison Scott assisted on Main’s goal off the face-off win for Bentley.
The Falcons pulled even at 18:50 when defenseman Tucker Hodgson sniped a shot from the slot over the glove of Ramdomsky. The goal was Hodgson’s first career goal as well. Graduate students Brendan Hamblet and Phil Knies assisted on the freshman’s game-tying goal.
A Tripping call on Holy Cross’ forward Vincent gave the Falcons a power-play twenty-five seconds into the middle frame. The Falcons took the lead just fourteen seconds later on Bavaro’s shot from the slot. The sophomore defenseman’s second goal of the year would be the eventual game-winner as Grabko held the relentless Crusaders in check for the remainder of the game.
The Crusaders put 13 shots on Grabko in the third period as they desperately tried to pull even during first-year Head Coach Bill Riga‘s home ice debut on the Holy Cross campus. The Crusaders put pressure on Bentley non-stop in the third. After an icing call against the Falcons, head coach Ryan Soderquist used his timeout at 11:47 to get his tiring team a rest. Another Interference call on Lombardozzi eight seconds later continued to propel Holy Cross’ attack but once again Grabko was a wall.
With the Holy Cross net empty the Crusaders threw everything they could at Grabko in the last minute and change, they missed a few good looks with Grabko out of position but couldn’t equalize. Matching roughing calls after a scrum in front of Grabko lead to a face-off just outside the Bentley zone with seven seconds remaining. Falcons center Gosiewski batted the puck off the draw the length of the ice for the empty-net goal with three ticks remaining on the clock.
“We played well at times,” said Crusaders coach Riga. “We dominated in stretches against a team that’s beaten a few really good hockey teams. I think our margin for error is small right now. We have to believe that the little details matter.”
Riga pointed to the small but costly mistakes that lead to Bentley tying the game by the end of the opening period.
“We don’t get to the red line on an icing, that face-off goes in,” said Riga of the Falcons’ first goal. “We got to finish on open nets. We had two at the end of the game and just didn’t put it in.”
“I’m not one for moral victories, but I do think we’re a better hockey team today than we were last Saturday (5-2 loss at Mercyhurst). In the end that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll get some bounces.”
With the win, the Falcons improve to 3-2 (1-0 in Atlantic Hockey) on the season while the Crusaders fall to 0-4-1 (0-2-1 A.H.). The two teams square off again on Saturday afternoon at Bentley Arena on the Bentley campus in Waltham, MA. at 4:00 pm.