Pioneers Pull Off Playoff Comeback, Score Five Third-Period Goals in 6-3 Win Over Bentley
(Watertown, MA) – Down 3-1 in the third period of Round One of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament, the Sacred Heart Pioneers rallied for five third-period goals to come from behind and beat the Bentley Falcons 6-3 Saturday night.
Matt Gingera (Winnipeg, MB) scored three goals in the final period for Sacred Heart's first hat trick of the season. However, it was Evan Mladenoff (Leawood, KS) who ignited the rally with his second of the game and the first of five unanswered goals. He raced into the offensive zone to get to a loose puck sent in by Mitchell Stretch (Saskatoon, SK) and roofed a wrist-shot glove side to cut SHU's deficit to 3-2 at 7:54. Then, Gingera tied it at three when he knocked in a goal-mouth pass from Eric Delong (Oakville, MB) at 10:41. Nine seconds later, Ben Ketchum (Greenwich, CT) seized that momentum and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with a blistering wrist shot at 10:50. Gingera made it a two-goal lead by converting a cycle started by Delong, who skated out of the near corner off a sharp pass from Torin Snydeman (Groton, MA) at 12:24. He completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining on a wrist shot from center ice off defenseman Mike Switzer's glove.
Olivier St. Onge (Wickham, QB) made 42 saves in net and even added two assists for his third win of the year. Dustin Cloutier was the first Falcon to beat him at 6:14 of the first. However, Mladenoff answered with a tying goal on the power play off a redirect of a Patrick Knowlton wrist shot from the point at 7:32 of the first. Bentley dominated the second period, going up 3-1 on goals by Jamie Nudy at 3:20 and Cloutier at 13:22 and a 19-5 advantage in second-period shots on goal.
The third-period comeback is SHU's first all season. Previously, the Pioneers were 0-18-1 when trailing after two periods . "Our guys have been in this position before," said head coach C.J. Marattolo. "We just talked in the locker room about getting it to 3-2, and keep playing our game, and we'll get our chances to score. Their effort was unbelievable, I couldn't be more proud of those guys in that locker room tonight, they way they battled for each other."
With the win, the Pioneers advance to the best two-out-of-three AHA Quarterfinals against the Air Force Falcons next weekend. The series will be a rematch of last season's Atlantic Hockey Semi-Final, when the Pioneers won 2-1 with 42 seconds remaining on Knowlton's game-winner. Sacred Heart took three of four points in the regular-season series with Air Force, tying them 5-5 and beating them 4-2 at home January 7-8. The series begins Friday night at 9:05 p.m. EST in Colorado Springs, CO.