The Matchup: For the second straight season, Bentley University will host Sacred Heart in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in a best of three series. Games one and two are set for Friday and Saturday night, and game three, if necessary, will be Sunday night. Game time each night is 7:05 pm
The Falcons (10-12-6 AHC) finished T-6th in the final regular season standings with 26 points, tied with both RIT and Mercyhurst. Due to tiebreakers, they will be the No. 8 seed in the tournament. Bentley is coming off a pair of overtime games against Holy Cross last weekend, which saw the Crusaders take the first game 5-4, and the second game end in a 2-2 tie.
Sacred Heart (10-15-3 AHC) finished 9th in the standings with 23 points. They are coming off a split with Air Force in Colorado last weekend, which saw the hosts win the first game 5-0, but the Pioneers rebound with a 3-2 overtime victory the next night.
Follow the Games: Each game will be available on AtlanticHockey.TV, in addition to live stats being available each night.
AHC Tournament: The other two first round series this weekend pit No. 6 seed RIT hosting No. 11 seed Niagara, and No. 7 seed Mercyhurst hosting No. 10 AIC. The top five teams in the standings received byes to the quarterfinals; Canisius, Air Force, Army, Robert Morris and Holy Cross. The quarterfinal round will be next weekend, and is again a best of three series. The only matchup known at this point is RMU hosting Holy Cross. The opponents for Canisius, Air Force and Army depend on this weekend's results, with Canisius hosting the lowest remaining seed as the No. 1 seed.
The four teams that advance out of the quarterfinals will meet in the semifinals in Rochester, N.Y. on Friday, March 17. The championship game is one day later, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Last Time Out: Bentley and Holy Cross went to overtime twice at the JAR last weekend. In the first game, Bentley jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Max French and Ryner Gorowsky. Holy Cross though quickly erased the deficit with three goals, and led 3-2 after the opening period. Senior Tyler Deresky then tied the game for Bentley on two occasions, first with 2:06 left in the 2nd to make it a 3-3 game, and again with 16:39 left in the 3rd to make it a 4-4 game. However, Holy Cross defenseman Johnny Coughlin scored the winner with 1:50 left in OT.
The next night, Bentley goalie Jayson Argue made 28 saves in his return, and battled Holy Cross' Paul Berrafato to a 2-2 tie. French had a power play goal in the 2nd period, and Kyle Schmidt had a PP goal with 7:57 left in the 3rd frame to knot the game 2-2. Argue made a big save on a Holy Cross breakaway by T.J. Moore in OT to preserve the tie.
Series Notes: Not only will Bentley and Sacred Heart be playing for the 5th, 6th and potentially 7th times this season, it will be that many meetings in seven weeks. The teams played a home-and-home the weekend of Jan. 20. Bentley won the first game on the road 3-2, but SHU took the 2nd game at the JAR 5-4. Four weeks later, freshman goalie Aidan Pelino blanked SHU at the JAR 4-0 on Feb. 17. But the Pioneers won the next night at home 3-2.
In the four games this season, Schmidt led Bentley in scoring against SHU with four goals and three assists. French and Jonathan Desbiens also had two goals apiece.
This will also be the 2nd season in a row these teams are meeting in the postseason. Bentley won last year's first round series, two games to one. The Falcons won game one 5-4 behind a hat trick from Derek Bacon. SHU took game two, 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Justin Danforth 13:06 into the extra session. In the deciding game three, Bentley won it 4-1. It was a tight 2-1 game most of the way, until Schmidt scored with 1:26 left in the 3rd period, before he added an empty goal to seal it.
These teams also met in the 2012 first round, which Bentley won two games to one, punctuated by a 5-0 shutout in game three with Branden Komm getting the shutout, and five different players scored. They also played in the 2011 first round, which SHU won 6-3.
French Moves Into 3rd in Goals: Max French's power play goal on Feb. 25 vs. Holy Cross was the 63rd goal of his career. That broke a tie with Jeff Gumaer '09, and moved him into sole possession of 3rd place on Bentley's career goals list for Division I. Brett Gensler '14 holds the record with 73, followed closely by Andrew Gladiuk '16 with 72. In career Division I points, French's 137 is 3rd as well, behind Gensler (167) and Gladiuk (153).
Among active players in the NCAA, French finished the regular season 5th in both career goals and points, T-12th in assists (74) and 3rd in power play goals (22).