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Bentley tops NCAA surprises

by Bob Snow

Coach Ryan Soderquist's Falcons are atop the league leaders in Atlantic Hockey at 5-4-2, and three points behind league-leading Air Force.
One of college hockey’s biggest surprises at the halfway point is the Bentley College Falcons of Waltham, Mass.

Rated No. 9 in preseason Atlantic Hockey polls, coach Ryan Soderquist's Falcons are getting down to business at a school where the focus always is on business.

Ranked among the top business schools in the nation, Bentley usually was known more for "MBA" than "PK" and "GAA."

Now, its hockey team is getting attention for its balanced lines.

Bentley has settled into contention with league powers RIT, Air Force and Army for a second-half run at their first bid at an NCAA tournament berth in March.

The Falcons came up just short of making the tournament in 2006, losing the Atlantic championship game to rival Holy Cross.

"My goal has been to develop an identity about what the program is; what you're going to be is probably my biggest learning curve," said sixth-year coach Soderquist, a Falcons alum and the school's all-time leading scorer. "We're kind of there now. We respect all our opponents, but we don't fear them. Maybe two, three years ago we feared some. As long as we're all on the same page and want to win we can get it done."

Even though Bentley dropped an Oct. 20 game against Western Michigan they still consider it a turning point.

"I definitely think the game against Western Michigan was the big turning point,” Soderquist said. “We didn't win the game (3-1), but I honestly felt that we outplayed them. Nine times out of 10 you win that game. Then we come back and take Air Force, 4-0, in our building the next game."

A year ago Air Force took a 3-1 lead into the last eight minutes in the NCAA West Regional last March before bowing to Minnesota, 4-3.

The Falcons are in the midst of an important portion of their schedule but weren’t able to win either game of a home-and-home series against RIT.

"There's no doubt we have three league games before the break -- three at home," said Soderquist. "We need to play 60 minutes."

Despite a solid effort, Bentley picked up only one of four points with a nail-biting 3-2 loss Friday and a gutsy 2-2 tie Saturday.

"Win, lose or draw," said Soderquist, "we need to establish who we are."

21-year-old freshman, Falcons' goalie, Joe Calvi, has a .931 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.13. Calvi has been integral in Bentley's success.

Bentley is where they are because of their 21-year-old freshman goalie, Joe Calvi. Calvi totaled 73 saves in both RIT contests. The freshman goalie’s save percentage is .931 with a goals-against average of 2.13. Calvi also won league Goaltender of the Month honors for November.

"School is going well," said Calvi. "Working hard, going to the tutors and getting help where I need it. Losing a little sleep here and there, but it's going to be worth it in the end. Definitely the hockey part is more stress on the mind and the body."

Calvi has reduced Soderquist’s stress.

"I thought the goaltending would be a work in progress," the coach said, "looking at a 50-50 split into the season -- like a 1A, 1B. Joe stepped up quite early. Then came one opportunity and another opportunity, and here he is now kind of taking over."

"When I came here, I did not know what to expect," Calvi said. "I said to myself, 'Man, I'm going to have to battle to be third-string, I'm not No. 1.' Actually I was at a restaurant with my folks watching that (NCAA) Air Force game. Now, it's like, 'Wow, I'm actually playing against Air Force. That's a team in our league.' Now I know any team in our league can do that. I need to keep playing big and rely on my defense, and not allowing the soft stuff. I hope I'm the go-to guy."

Soderquist knows he needs a few other go-to guys for the next three months.

"Offensively, Jeff Gumaer is one of our top guns. He's coming alive after early struggles. He and Dain Pruitt on the first line -- if they get it going, we'll be OK. Then Dustin Cloutier and Marc Menzione are playing great hockey on the second line right now. We'll need them all the way through. Jay Judd on defense is a senior captain who's playing great. If we get Bob Preece back from injury sooner than later, he'll really help the (defense) corps."

Bentley is hanging atop the league leaders in Atlantic Hockey at 5-4-2, and three points behind league-leading Air Force.

Next week, we'll look at Northeastern, the surprise of Hockey East.

On Campus Clips -- Two national streaks shrieked to a halt Friday night: Niagara's 22-game home unbeaten record was put to an end with a 5-1 loss to CHA conference rival Bemidji State. Michigan's 12-game unbeaten streak ended with a 3-2 loss to CCHA rival Ohio State. ... The Central Collegiate Hockey Association, FSN Detroit, the Detroit Red Wings, RBK Hockey and Perani's Hockey World are giving boys and girls ages 5-11 an opportunity to play free hockey for the first time Feb. 16 with clinics scheduled across the Michigan. ... Boston College and Boston University have battled each other in college hockey since 1917. The Eagles beat the Terriers twice last weekend, 6-2 at home and 4-3 at Agganis Arena. After 240 meetings BU has a record of 120-105-15 against BC. ... Princeton senior Landis Stankievech was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Stankievech, a senior from Trochu, Alberta, is a mechanical and aerospace engineering major. ... With their 13-1-0 record through 14 games, the Miami RedHawks are off to the best start in school history. Their previous best was 11-2-1 in 2005-06. Top 10
1.  Miami (13-1-0)
2.  Michigan (14-2-0)
3.  Colorado College (10-4-0)
4.  Denver (10-4-0)
5.  Michigan State (10-3-2)
6.  North Dakota (7-5-1)
7.  New Hampshire (8-3-1)
8.  Notre Dame (14-4-0)
9.  Clarkson (10-5-0)
10  Northeastern (7-4-1)
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