The Matchup: Two of the hottest teams in college hockey in Bentley and Holy Cross will meet on the final weekend of the regular season in Atlantic Hockey with a lot still to be decided across the league. The Falcons are at home Friday for Senior Night at Ryan Skating Arena, then hit the road for Saturday's game at the Hart Center in Worcester.
Bentley, in a three-way tie for third with 32 points, is one of five teams that still has a shot at winning the AHA regular season title, along with Air Force (1st place, 34 pts), RIT (2nd place, 33 pts) and Niagara and Mercyhurst (t-3rd). Both Bentley and Holy Cross (6th place, 31 pts) are also in position for a top-four spot and a first round bye in the AHA playoffs.
Adding to the intrigue, both teams are among the hottest in college hockey right now. Both are riding six-game unbeaten streaks (Bentley 5-0-1, Holy Cross 6-0-0), which is tied for fourth longest in the nation. Bentley's streak is the fourth longest in program history and longest in its Division I history.
Title Shot: For Bentley to finish first in the standings, the following must happen: A sweep of Holy Cross, combined with Air Force getting no more than two points against Robert Morris, Mercyhurst getting no more than three points against Canisius AND either a split of the RIT-Niagara series OR Niagara getting three points.
Bentley only has the tiebreaker over Air Force, so they need to finish ahead of the other teams.
Senior Night: Seven seniors will be honored prior to Friday's game; co-captains Trent Bonnett and Jamie Nudy, Aaron Stonacek, Tyler Quartuccio, Ryan Kayfes, Herbie Kent and Mike Switzer. Bonnett (136 games), Kayfes (134) and Switzer (133) have played in the fifth, sixth and seventh most games, respectively, in program history to this point.
Grieve Goes Off: Freshman Alex Grieve was named the AHA's Player of the Week on Monday after a monster weekend against UConn. In Saturday's 6-1 victory, he had a hand in each goal, scoring two and assisting on the other four. The six points tied the program's Division I record for most in a single-game, held by head coach Ryan Soderquist (Nov. 13, 1999 vs. AIC) and Mike Spengler (Feb. 11, 2000 vs. AIC). The night before in the 2-1 OT win over the Huskies, he helped set up Brett Switzer's winner and had the secondary assist.
For the season, his scoring line is up to 12-15-27, which is tied for sixth in Atlantic Hockey in points and tied for ninth in goals. He's two off the pace for most points among the league's rookies.
Hat Trick for Gensler: Gensler had his second hat trick of the season in Saturday's win. He leads the league in points by four over Air Force's Kyle De Laurell (39), is second in goals (16) and first in assists (23). His 39 points is already third most in the program's Division I history with at least four games left. Soderquist has the record (48) set in 1999-2000.
Nationally, Gensler is tied for 17th in points per game (1.22), tied for 30th in goals per game (0.50) and tied for tied for 25th in assists per game (0.72).
Switzer Ends a Streak: Switzer's winner in overtime on Friday was Bentley's first OT victory this season after seven straight ties, and eight straight going back to last season. He's tied for 12th overall in the AHA in points (25) and is fourth among rookies.
Komm Goalie of the Week: Sophomore goalie Branden Komm was named the AHA Goalie of the Week on Monday for the second time this season. Now 13-10-6 overall, he allowed just one goal in each game against UConn, and made 30 saves on Friday and 24 on Saturday. He's gone four straight games allowing two goals or less, and has done that in 19 of the 24 Atlantic Hockey games he's started this season.
In Atlantic Hockey games, Komm has the fourth-best goals against average in the league (1.82) and a .937 save percentage. Only UConn's Garrett Bartus has logged more minutes than Komm's 1,743.
+/- Rankings: Bonnett and Gensler are tied for second in the league in +/- at +15. In just conference games, Bentley skaters own the top-five spots. Gensler (+21), B. Switzer (+19), Bonnett (+18), Grieve (+18) and Zach Marginsky (+16).
Earlier This Season: The first meeting of the season between Bentley and Holy Cross on Jan. 24 at the JAR ended in a 6-6 tie. The Falcons led 4-1 at one point in the first period, but Holy Cross scored five unanswered into the third period to take a 6-4 advantage. Gensler though helped Bentley rally for the tie, scoring his second and third goals of the game at 2:27 and 13:01.
Scouting Holy Cross: The Crusaders are on a six-game winning streak entering the weekend, with sweeps over AIC, Army and Sacred Heart. Offensively, they have four double-digit goal scorers, led by junior Brandon Nunn (14). Senior Andrew Cox (12-15-27) and sophomore Adam Schmidt (11-16-27) are tied for the team-lead in points. As a group they average 3.09 g/gm, which is second in the AHA, and 3.40 g/gm in conference play, which is first.
Freshman goalie Matt Ginn is the starter; he's started 20 games this season and each of the last six. He's 13-6-1 with a 2.47 GAA and a .903 save percentage.
Up Next: Bentley will host a best-of-three playoff series, but it remains to be seen whether it will be a first round series next weekend or a quarterfinal series starting March 9.