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  • The Griffin

Ice Griffs open up conference play at Bentley

By: Jay Ashdown

With seven games now completed to start the season, the Canisius Golden Griffins hockey team will finally begin conference play when they head up to Waltham, Mass. to take on the Bentley Falcons.

The last time Canisius played Bentley, they lost two straight games to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs just one week before COVID-19 shut down the sports world. A lot has happened since with both programs, as they both headed in different directions.

When Canisius lost to Bentley, they were the No. 9 seed in the conference, and being swept by 8th seed Bentley left a sour taste in many players’ mouths. While Bentley never had the chance to take on AIC in the next round that year due to the pandemic shutting everything down, it was — all things considered — a pretty decent season for the Falcons.

Last season, while the two teams never played each other due to a new format in the league to cut down on travel for all schools involved, the Bentley Falcons began to tread down while the Golden Griffins soared up.

Canisius went all the way to the championship game, and they were just one period away from winning it all. On the other hand, Bentley went 5–11, with an incredibly poor 1–6 record on the road. Bentley has consistently been a middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic Hockey conference, so their poor performance last season was a bit surprising to say the least.

With a new season now here, both teams are in similar sports through seven games. Canisius has split all three of their series against Penn State, RPI and Ferris State, and the one game they played outside of that against Clarkson was ironically a tie as well.

On the other hand, Bentley comes into this weekend with a 3–4 record, but they have some impressive wins on their resume. Despite a 7–1 loss to Ohio State, a 4–0 loss to Northeastern and a 7–3 loss to Harvard, they do also boast a 2–1 win over Ohio State from that series, as well as a stunning 6–2 blowout win over No. 6 Boston College.

“They’re deep, they’re fast and they’re skilled,” head coach Trevor Large said about Bentley. “They beat two really good teams, obviously. They’re difficult at home, they have a lot of energy in how they play. They really like offense, so if you’re not prepared to play, they can catch you; and they get a lot of momentum as most teams do. If you start scoring and really producing, that’s exciting. It’s exciting to be an offensive minded team and that’s what they are.”

Some of the forwards to look out for on Bentley include Phil Knies and Matt Gosiewski.

Knies is a graduate student from Miami of Ohio who has eight points through the first seven games this season. Gosiewski is a junior who scored 24 points in 35 games his freshman year, and put up 15 points through 16 games last season. While he only has three points through the first seven games this season, he’s still a top guy for Bentley who they will rely on if they want to win this series.

While Bentley boasts some creative forwards like Gosiewski and Knies, they will rely heavily on sophomore Drew Bavaro to carry the load defensively. Bavaro posted two goals and 12 total points last season in 16 games for Bentley, and despite the team's lack of success last season, he only had eight penalty minutes and posted a plus/minus of +3. Bavaro has had a rough start to this season carrying a plus/minus of -5 through the first seven games, but he has four goals and six total points already; and, considering the competition Bentley has had on their schedule, it would be fair to assume that as the season goes on his plus/minus numbers will improve.

The problem with Bentley in previous years has been in net, and so far this season goaltending continues to be an issue for the Falcons. Nicolas Grabko has started six games for Bentley, and has posted a subpar .904% save percentage as well as a goals against average of 3.46. Their backup Evan Debrouwer, an Arizona State transfer, started one game for the team and was pulled in the second period of the game after allowing four goals on 23 shots.

If Bentley can get solid goaltending from any of their goaltenders, they’re a problem in this conference. The problem for them has always been that they don’t get solid goaltending consistently, and it has been an issue that has hindered them for years.

Canisius has the distinct advantage in net, as Jacob Barczewski is coming off a stellar 2020-21 season, and has started the season with a .911% save percentage as well as a goals against average of 2.85 through his five starts.

On top of this, Canisius also should have an advantage offensively. The Griffs boast two of the best players offensively in the conference in Keaton Mastrodonato and Randy Hernandez. Mastrodonato already has eight points in the first seven games of the season, and the Griffs are also getting production from the likes of Lee Lapid and Mitchell Martan who have five points so far, as well as Max Kouznetsov, J.D. Pogue, Simon Gravel, and Austin Alger who all have four points so far.

If the Griffs continue to get the goaltending they’ve been getting from Barczewski and Hawthorne there’s no reason they can’t walk out of Waltham with a sweep, but at the very least they should take one game on the road. With three splits so far this season, there’s a lot to like about the team so far, especially with the heavy competition they’ve started this season against.

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