The Griffs Prepare for the Bentley Falcons: The Griffs look to rebound after a tough weekend against Air Force

By Canio Marasco

Sports Reporter

After a tumultuous weekend against Air Force, the Griffs head into a critical match-up with conference foe, Bentley.

On January 29th, the Griffs started their two game series with the Air Force Falcons. This was a critical series for the Griffs, as they were three points behind the Falcons, with four points available in the two games. In their first match-up, the Griffs fell to the Falcons 3-2. The only goal of the first period was tallied by the Falcons, as they scored just minutes into the game. In the second period, the Griffs were awarded a penalty shot five minutes into the frame. The penalty shot was turned away and with the ensuing momentum, the Falcons scored seconds later. Freshman Felix Chamberland scored as the period came to a close to bring the Griffs within one. In the third period, the Falcons scored any early goal, despite the Griffs dominating possession. Ralph Cuddemi was able to bring the Griffs back within a goal, but their furious effort fell short as time expired in the third.

In the second game of the match-up, the Griffs battled to a 1-1 draw with the Falcons. The Griffs, like the previous night, fell into a one goal deficit early in the game. The Falcons were able to take their one goal lead into the second period. The Griffs, despite their relentless determination and puck possession, couldn’t find the back of the net in the second frame. However, their perseverance was awarded in the third period as Ralph Cuddemi was able to capitalize on a chance while the Griffs were on the power play. He tapped in a loose puck as it lied untouched in the crease to ensure the tie.

Coach Dave Smith, on the Air Force series, stated, “We only got one out of the four possible points. Obviously, the most important thing is the points, but after that is the play and we did very well on Friday and Saturday night. On Friday night we simply made three big mistakes and we weren’t able to capitalize on our opportunities. But, the process of how we played was good and our effort was high.” Despite the Griffs not winning, they were able to continue their dominance in shots and possession; this has been a growing theme as the season has progressed, especially in conference play.

In their last seven games, preceding the Air Force series, the Griffs had only been beaten once. Although a disappointing outcome, the Griffs are still positioned well in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Coach Smith, on the team’s standing going into the playoffs, stated, “We’ve continued to get better, we’ve met challenges on the road and at home. We’ve let points slip away, but we can’t do anything about that. We just need to continue to get better. So, I feel like we can play and beat anyone in the league. I feel these last few weeks are important, in that we continue to climb and continue to push.”

One of the main reasons the Griffs have been playing better in the past couple weeks has been the emergence of depth scoring. This can be seen the best in the play of Freshman Dylan McLaughlin. The promising forward has totaled seventeen points on the season, with an impressive six goals mostly all coming in recent games. Dylan McLaughlin, on his recent play, stated, “I think it’s just sticking to the gameplan. The team in playing well and we’re starting to string together some points. It’s easier to be productive when the team is playing well.”

In the upcoming weekend, the Griffs will travel to Massachusetts to play the Bentley Falcons, continuing their long stretch of conference games. Bentley is currently sitting in sixth place in the AHC, while the Griffs sit in seventh, one win behind the Falcons. Bentley averages a very respectable 2.69 goals per game, with the leading scorer on their team being Junior Max French. He has totaled thirty-nine points on the season and has tallied eighteen goals and currently leads the AHC in points, just ahead of the Griff’s Shane Conacher. The Falcon’s goaltending has been rather average this year, as Senior Gabe Antoni ranks behind the Griff’s Simon Hoffley in all important statistical categories.  

Coach Smith, on the Griff’s match-up with Bentley, stated, “Every weekend it’s the same thing, it’s going to come down to special teams and goaltending. If we can do those things well and be even in the other areas, we should win.” If the match-up comes down to goaltending, the Griffs have a slight advantage in Simon Hoffley. The Freshman has a .933 save percentage in comparison to Antoni’s .923, despite Hoffley having played twenty more minutes this season. Bentley, however, has a decided advantage in special teams. The Falcons have tallied fourteen power play goals in eighty-two opportunities. In contrast, the Griffs have scored a lowly eleven power play goals in eighty-three chances. The largest disparity on special teams, however, comes on the penalty kill. The Falcons have killed off seventy of eighty-four (83%) power plays this season. The Griffs, in comparison, have only killed off sixty-two of eighty (76%) power plays, a much worse percentage than the Falcons.

The match-up with Bentley is critical as the Griffs approach the playoffs. Dylan McLaughlin, summing up his season, stated, “I think this year has been a good building block. Hopefully we can put a playoff run together.”

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