When Brett Gensler was a freshman at Bentley, he tied for second on the team in scoring with 24 points, just 2 fewer than senior Erik Peterson. But that was just the beginning.
Last year was a breakout campaign for the St. Charles, Mo., native. He more than doubled his offensive output with 50 points in 40 games.
This year, the right wing has picked up right where he left off. Through nine games, Gensler has 19 points (8 goals), and is tied for the top spot in the nation in scoring with St. Lawrence senior Kyle Flanagan.
Although Bentley (5-4, 4-2 Atlantic) has been inconsistent at times, Gensler has a very positive feeling about this team.
“It’s been pretty up and down, actually,’’ said Gensler. “I think we’re going to finally get consistent now. We picked up 4 points last weekend and it’s been a lot of fun so far figuring out where everyone is; we have a lot of new freshmen that are contributing.
“Obviously, every team has to find what it’s going to be good at, what its strengths are. We found out early that we’re really good offensively. Then, a couple of games later, we found out we were really struggling in the [defensive] zone.
“We worked on things and now we think we’re at a spot where we know what we have to do and we know our identity.’’
Before college, when Gensler was playing for Youngstown of the United States Hockey League, several big-time college programs were interested, but they wanted him to stay one more year in junior hockey. Gensler disagreed, and Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist thought he could flourish. That has certainly been the case.
“I love where I’m at,’’ said Gensler. “I think I’m in a great position here at Bentley to succeed on the ice as well as in academics. I love everything. I think I made a great decision and I wouldn’t change it.’’
Gensler is playing on a line with center Alex Grieve, who is second on the team in scoring with 11 points, and left wing Justin Breton (tied for third with 10 points).
“Justin’s been great,’’ said Gensler. “He’s a big, hard-working kid. Me and Alex, being a little more skilled, [Breton] goes in there and he gets the puck for us. It works out really well.”
Gensler said much of his offense is coming off the rush.
“We’re a very fast transition team,’’ said Gensler, who turned 22 Thursday. “We transition the puck very well and get up ice very well. We have a lot of fast skaters and I think that’s kind of our thing.”
Not only did Gensler win the Walter Brown Award last season as the best American-born college hockey player in New England, he was the first Atlantic player to do so. He also set the school’s Division 1 records in goals and points, surpassing his coach, Soderquist.
“He gave me a belt that he said he wore for a long time as a little joke,’’ said Gensler. “We had a laugh over that. You could tell he was real happy for me.’’
Soderquist said he wanted to commemorate the passing of the torch.
“We just played a little bit of a joke on him,’’ said Soderquist, who was Atlantic Coach of the Year for 2011-12. “I had a belt that had the scoring title on it and I put it on. I made it at home. When he broke the record, I took it off and gave it to him.’’
Soderquist said Gensler’s confidence began soaring in the second half of last year, and continued this season.
“He really came on strong, knowing he could produce every night,’’ said Soderquist. “Just from the start in October, he started right where he left off and he’s continued to be a strong player for us.’’
The coach, whose team hosts Mercyhurst for two games this weekend, said Breton has made a big difference for the line in general and Gensler in particular.
“He’s doing extremely well; what he’s added is a little grit and he’s added the role of a power forward,’’ said Soderquist. “He’s the first guy on pucks, he opens up space for Gensler and Grieve. He’s been a great addition.’’
Saturday afternoon promises a sensational matchup at Conte Forum when No. 11 Dartmouth squares off against No. 1 Boston College. Dartmouth is first in the ECAC and BC is first in Hockey East. After a season-opening loss, the Eagles have won nine in a row. The only loss Dartmouth (5-1-2) suffered was last Friday at Colgate. The Big Green are led by sophomore forward Tyler Sikura, who has 13 points in nine games. The Eagles’ top scorer is also a sophomore, Johnny Gaudreau, who has 14 points in 10 contests . . . New Hampshire (8-1-1), which is second in Hockey East, has a stiff challenge ahead with games at Colorado College Friday and at Denver Saturday. The Wildcats are led by junior forward Kevin Goumas (13 points) and sophomore netminder Casey DeSmith. DeSmith has a 1.19 goals-against average and .961 save percentage, second in the nation. UNH has the top defense in the country, allowing an average of 1.20 goals per game. Denver has the top offense at 4.50 and Colorado College (3.58) is seventh.Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.