Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Know Your Enemy: Bentley

Part 3 of "Know Your Enemy" discusses a program that's getting to be a familiar face in Troy. Bentley University - promoted from Bentley College in 2008 - will be the first regular-season home game on the 2010-11 RPI schedule for the third time in four years.

Nickname: Falcons
Location: Waltham, MA
Founded: 1917
Conference: Atlantic Hockey
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: None
Coach: Ryan Soderquist (9th season)
2009-10 Record: 12-19-4 (10-15-3 AHA, 8th place)
Series: RPI leads, 2-1-0
First Game: October 9, 2007 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: November 27, 2009 (Troy, NY)
Last Bentley win: October 18, 2008 (Troy, NY)

2010-11 game: October 16, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Key players: F Erik Peterson, sr.; F Jamie Nudy, jr.; F Joe Campanelli, so.; F Dan Koudys, so.; F Brett Hartung, so.; F Justin Breton, fr.; D Trent Bonnett, jr.; D Ryan Kayfes, jr.; G Kyle Rank, jr.

For a period in the early part of the last decade, it seemed that yearly home matchups with Mercyhurst were becoming the norm for the Engineers when it came to scheduling games with Atlantic Hockey teams. The Lakers made five appearances in Troy in as many seasons early in the 2000s. Sacred Heart then followed on with five appearances in seven seasons between 2004 and last season. Today, Bentley is now in that mold as well, as they will make an appearance for the fourth consecutive season at Houston Field House, this time as the opponents for RPI's homecoming weekend.

Bentley has a relatively short and unimpressive hockey history. They moved their club team to the Division III ECAC in 1978, where they competed until 1985, when the school moved to the ECAC North-South in Division II to bring the program in line with the rest of its athletic programs in Division II.

The Falcons struggled in their first decade in Division II, but by the late 1990s, their record was improving, largely thanks to the diminishing number of D-II programs requiring the team to fill its schedule with D-III opponents. It was the diminishing D-II club that eventually forced Bentley into the D-I ranks, as was the case with most other early MAAC teams. Bentley was not an inaugural member of the conference that would soon become Atlantic Hockey, spending that first season as a D-II independent before acceding to the MAAC in 1999.

Since moving to D-I, Bentley has largely struggled. In 6 of 11 seasons, they failed to reach the 10-win mark. Their two bright spots were in 2006, when the team made a Cinderella run to the Atlantic Hockey championship game before losing to a Holy Cross team that was one of the strongest the league had produced to that point. The other was 2009, when Bentley finished in 4th in Atlantic Hockey with their first (and only) winning season in D-I to date.

As we have seen in their visits to Troy, however, they're not a team that's going to be quickly pushed over. Netminder Kyle Rank recorded his first collegiate win against the Engineers in 2008-09, and then displayed some outstanding skills in last year's RPI Holiday Tournament, standing on his head to make 49 saves before blanking Lake Superior State in a shootout to lead Bentley to third place.

The Falcons also boast a pair of sophomores in Campanelli and Hartung who they'll rely on for goalscoring. Incoming freshman Justin Breton could potentially add to that as well, as he comes in from the EJHL having netted 54 points in 45 games last season. If the name Dan Koudys sounds familiar, there's a good reason for it - the Bentley sophomore is RPI freshman defenseman Patrick Koudys' cousin. He had a solid freshman campaign, posting 6 goals and 14 assists in 33 games. Campanelli, Hartung, Breton, and Koudys will be counted on to replace the scoring lost when forward Marc Menzione and defenseman Bobby Preece graduated, they were the Falcons' first and third leading scorers respectively last season.

Head coach Ryan Soderquist is entering his 9th season behind the bench at Bentley, but he remains one of the youngest head coaches in the nation. Soderquist was a 2000 graduate of Bentley, where he remains the highest scoring player in program history. He took over just three seasons later, meaning he coached some of the same guys he played with. His ninth season will tie his predecessor, Jim McAdam, for the longest tenure in school history.

Given the solid competition the Engineers will be facing in road games ahead of the Bentley homecoming, this should be a game that RPI should be able to win fairly easily, but they must be on guard against a letdown. Two years ago, this same team made the most of a lackluster effort by the Engineers to earn a shocking overtime victory that would be a harbinger of a terrible season to come for the Tute. We've seen the Engineers play down to the level of their opponent quite frequently when they are faced with teams they should be able to take down. This will be their first test to see if they can overcome that - last season, many of those early tests (Army, AIC, and Sacred Heart especially) displayed that the stigma was still there. Bentley, on the back half of the away-home weekend, is going to be a must-win if only because any team that will have high expectations has to be able to win a game like this at home, and should do it decisively.

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