Brian Riley’s Army West Point team started out with a less than ideal shift against a fast and physical Bentley team. Despite starting out on defense early on, and trailing the Falcons of Bentley 2-0, he knew how his team was playing.
As he said “I told our guys after the first period, we’re fine… we’ve been in this situation a lot.” that is, Riley’s group knows how to keep pressing forward in their nightly battles to win each game, even when the opponent starts strong early on. Tonight, Bentley was being outplayed by Army, but holding a 2-0 lead through most of the first two periods.
That changed when Eric Butte added to his goal streak an scored another goal late in the second on a one-time shot from a superb Lincoln Hatten pass. Army went to the third period trailing only by one, but with all of the momentum on their side.
In the third period, things slowed down a bit, and Army benefited from the wonderful view of their Operations Director, Kris Horn. He told Coach Riley to challenge a non call on a Luke Santerno check to the head. For his keen eye, Riley suggested giving Horn the game puck, and it was well deserved. The review changed the course of the game for both teams. It was lengthy, but proved Horn right. Santerno went to the locker room, and soon after that, Bentley took more penalties to give the Black Knights plenty of time with the extra skater. The Falcons nearly got out of that first penalty fracas unscathed, but Colin Bilek was able to barely find the back of the net on a call that again went Army’s way on review. His eleventh goal tied things up, and was the toughest of his four shots on net. He had so many good looks throughout the evening, and kept working hard to get the equalizer. Bilek is second in the country in Hobey Baker Award fan voting.
In the overtime frame, Daniel Haider provided the game winner on a long shift. Riley noted Haider’s skill in finding the shot and not missing, and praised him as another one of the good goal scorers on this team.
What does tonight mean?
Well, Riley and his staff know that to keep things going, they need to keep accumulating wins, and Bentley looks to come into Tate Rink ready to spoil the resume of Army for an at-large bid. For teams getting together and playing the right way at the right time, arguably one of the best teams this year, in terms of improvement is Army West Point. How they finish these last few weeks determines what they need out of the postseason to make the tournament. The more they win, the better their resume, and if ever there was a year to give Atlantic Hockey three teams in the NCAA Tournament, Riley’s team is making a case to make this the year.
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