WATERTOWN, Mass. — In just over a minute, everything changed.
The Canisius Golden Griffins had erased a two-goal deficit and taken a 3-2 lead, and looked strong in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.
Ah, but it wasn’t quite over. Not for the Bentley Falcons on their home ice.
Brett Gensler scored with 23 seconds left in regulation and then Brett Switzer struck 40 seconds into overtime as Bentley earned a 4-3 win in front of 402 at the John A. Ryan Skating Arena on Friday night. It was the first game of the best-of-three series that continues here tonight at 7.
“We weren’t ready at the beginning of the game but we scored three unanswered goals and played really well,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “We were physically dominant the last two periods. … I thought the hockey luck was on Bentley’s side and we need to repeat the physical performance that we showed.”
The Falcons jumped on the board early as the second-best power play in the country got to work when Chris Rumble was called for high sticking at 2:36. Just 10 seconds later, Bentley cashed in on a deflection from Alex Grieve. The Falcons (19-12-4) made it 2-0 at 8:48 when a shot from the corner by Derek Bacon at 8:48 went behind Canisius goaltender Capobianco on his stick side.
But after settling in the first 10 minutes, the Griffs offense started applying pressure.
A beautiful rush by the first line was finished off by Patrick Sullivan (St. Francis) with assists to Cody Freeman and Kyle Gibbons to pull Canisius (14-20-3) within 2-1.
In the second period, Canisius dominated play. The Griffs held a 17-9 advantage in shots and had scoring chance after scoring chance. But Williamsville native Branden Komm kept making saves.
The Griffs didn’t score but they did feel a momentum rush.
“I think it was really good for us, just knowing we were getting opportunities,” Sullivan said. “We knew that some were going to go in for us. We just kept battling and doing those little things right. It paid off but it was a tough one.”
The Griffs capitalized in the third period, tying the game at 3:39, when Taylor Law carried the puck and drew over a defender, opening up Tyler Wiseman. Law fed the pass to Wiseman, who shot it high on Komm to tie the game.
The Griffs took the lead at 5:59 when Sullivan scored his second of the game.
The one-goal game remained a wide-open affair, and Komm focused on keeping the Griffs off the board – confident his team would find some more offense.
“It was important to keep it a one-goal game,” said Komm, who finished with 27 saves. “I had a lot of faith in my team to be able to score another one. I just wanted to do my job and know they would be able to do theirs. I know it’s a very emotional game with momentum swings. I just want to be prepared for that and be able to do my job so I can help them out.”
It was Gensler, the all-time leading scorer in Atlantic Hockey, who scored with 23 seconds left as the Falcons pulled Komm for the extra attacker.
In overtime it took just 40 seconds for Bentley to score the game-winner. Canisius played a solid backcheck but a bounce of the puck ended up on the stick of Switzer, who snapped it into the net.
Capobianco, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts, finished with 27 saves.
Should Canisius win tonight, Game Three is here at 7 p.m. Sunday.