Thursday, June 11, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Bentley

There were a number of significant low points for RPI last season. We detailed them heading into the playoffs. There was the Mayor's Cup fiasco. There was a major power outage on offense during the trip out west. And on the cusp of the Route 7 series, there was an embarrassingly poor performance against Bentley. For the first time, RPI was swept at home in a two-game series by a team from Atlantic Hockey. But as poorly as the Engineers played that weekend, it's hard not to point out that the Falcons played very well. This year, they earn their first ever visit from the Engineers.

Nickname: Falcons
Location: Waltham, MA
Founded: 1917
Conference: Atlantic Hockey
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: None
Coach: Ryan Soderquist (14th season)
2014-15 Record: 17-15-5 (14-9-5 AHA, 3rd place)
Series: Tied, 3-3-0
First Game: October 9, 2007 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: October 16, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last Bentley win: October 25, 2014 (Troy, NY)

2015-16 game: November 20, 2015 (Waltham, MA)

Key players: F Derek Bacon, sr.; D Matt Blomquist, sr.; D Billy Eiserman, sr.; F Andrew Gladiuk, sr.; F Michael Reardon, sr.; D Charlie Donners, jr.; F Max French, jr.; G Jayson Argue, so.; D Chris Buchanan, so.; F Andrew McDonald, so.; F Kyle Schmidt, so.; F Drew Callin, fr.; F Jonathan Desbiens, fr.; F Josh Lammon, fr.; D Alexey Solovyev, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
The October Engineers last year were a rough bunch. They simply couldn't put the puck in the net against anyone. Bentley took advantage, playing with confidence and poise, coming into the Houston Field House and sweeping a pair of games for two of their three non-conference wins. That may seem kind of rough, but for an Atlantic Hockey team, three wins outside the conference is actually a pretty decent showing. Most teams from AHA are fortunate to get one some years.

The Falcons had a pretty good run in Atlantic Hockey last year. They didn't lose back-to-back games in conference all year until the last two games of the regular season. Those were big losses that kept them from finishing second in the league, forcing them to settle for a tie for 3rd and the #4 seed. That loss of position cost Bentley, as they were drawn into an all out war with Mercyhurst in the quarterfinals in which the Lakers came out victorious in three games.

Bentley returns both of its top two scorers from last season, Gladiuk and French, and they have a seasoned defensive corps in front of their newly established #1 goaltender in Argue (who played neither of the games against RPI last season in what's kind of another blow to the Engineer ego). In his freshman year, Argue put up some decent numbers at .934 and 2.00. This looks like a team that could possibly contend for the Atlantic Hockey title this coming season.

One decided advantage that RPI should have coming into this game is the fact that they'll be coming off a game against a much tougher opponent in Michigan the previous weekend. But then again, the fact that RPI was coming home to play Bentley after two really tough opening weekends in Indiana and Colorado this past season was supposed to be a solid advantage, too. That didn't exactly pan out.

This is, however, the only game of the weekend for the Engineers, and it should probably be an out-and-back affair. Bentley plays in one of the smallest rinks in all of Division I, and pretty much never sell it out outside of the season opener - the Falcons haven't released their schedule yet, but this probably isn't going to be the opener. Therefore, with some concerted effort, RPI alums from the Boston area and anyone willing to hit up Boston on a Friday night could conceivably turn this into a home-away-from-home game for the Engineers. The average non-opening-night crowd at Bentley is around 300. Can we double that? Let's do it.

Anyway, despite what happened last year, being on the road, and despite Bentley seeming to be an even better team in the coming season, this still reads like a game the Engineers should be favored to win. This time, they certainly know that there's not going to be any gimmes when it comes to the Falcons.

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