NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Mercyhurst scored four third-period goals, three of them in eight minutes, to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 victory over Iona. The win guarantees the Lakers will host a MAAC quarterfinal game.
“When you get a game winner in a game like this, considering how big is, it definitely feels good,” said sophomore David Wrigley, whose second goal of the game snapped a 3-3 tie midway through the third period.
The MAAC playoffs were the not on Mercyhurst’s mind as it fell behind 2-0 after the first period. Iona opened the scoring early in the game as Neil Clark scored his first collegiate goal at 4:43. Andrew McShea’s pass from the left corner found Clark in the slot and the freshman took his time before wristing the puck over the glove of Andy Franck. Jaymie Harrington drew the secondary assist.
The Lakers nearly tied the game on the next shift, but freshman Dave Borelli’s shot from the slot hit the crossbar and deflected up into the netting behind goalie Ian Vigier.
The Gaels extended their lead late in the first period when Tim Krueckl caused a turnover in the neutral zone. Krueckl powered his way down the slot before dishing off to his right to Jamie Carroll. The freshman slid the puck between Franck’s pads for his 11th goal at 16:41.
Despite the two-goal hole, Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We thought we didn’t play a bad first period,” he said. “We made some mistakes and Iona capitalized. They made some mistakes and we didn’t capitalize. We thought if we stuck with the game plan — just work hard, get pucks on net [and] go to the net — we’d have a chance.”
Iona pressed hard for a three-goal lead in the second period. The Gaels threw everything but the kitchen sink at Franck, but the freshman standout kept them off the scoreboard.
“Andy Franck was the difference,” said Gotkin. “It could have been 3-0 [but] he kept it a 2-0 game [in the second].”
Gaels’ coach Frank Bretti realized how important it was for his team to try and put away the Lakers in the third period.
“At the end of the first period, even though we were up 2-0, we didn’t establish anything off the forecheck,” Bretti explained. “I did not want to get involved in a transition game with this team. We are not as fast as Mercyhurst.”
Then again, no team in the MAAC may be as fast as Mercyhurst. While the Lakers’ green, white and blue uniforms are reminiscent of the old Hartford Whalers, their playing style is more in keeping with the rouge, blanc et bleu of the Montreal Canadiens in their “Flying Frenchman” days.
Mercyhurst capitalized on its third power-play opportunity, cutting the lead in half late in the second period. T.J. Kemp’s shot from the left point beat Vigier to the glove side for the first of his two goals. Peter Rynshoven and Rich Hansen assisted on the goal at 14:40.
Less than four minutes, the Lakers struck again to tie the game as Wrigley scored the first of his two goals, redirecting home an Adam Rivers centering pass from the right wing.
That set the stage for a wild third period. Iona regained the lead in the opening minutes of the third period as the Gaels cashed in on a carryover power play from the second period. Krueckl pounced on a loose puck off a Jean-Paul Chaput point shot and lifted the rebound over Franck for his ninth of the season at 1:08. Chad Van Diemen received the secondary assist.
The Gaels enjoyed their 3-2 lead for about eight minutes before the Lakers found their second wind.
Kemp started the comeback at 7:48 with his second goal of the game, and eighth of the season, when he deflected home a Rynshoven centering pass after an Iona neutral zone turnover.
“I really think T.J. Kemp is one of the best defenseman in this conference,” Gotkin said. “He’s a workhorse and he logs a lot of ice time. He’s been, at this point, one of our MVPs. He is a kid who has a bright future.”
Mercyhurst went ahead for good less than two minutes later as Wrigley scored his second of the game, and 13th of the season, off assists from Rivers and Mark Chambers.
“It was nice for David to get a couple of goals [because] he has been getting chance after chance,” Gotkin said. “He’s a gifted goal scorer. He got rewarded for some hard work down low. He’s been pressing the last couple of games and tonight he really blew it open.”
Scott Reynolds extended Mercyhurst’s lead as he scored his eighth goal on a breakaway with the teams skating four aside. Erik Johnson and Nolan Brown drew the assists on the goal at 15:46.
With 3:04 left in regulation, and Iona about to enjoy a two-man advantage for 26 seconds, Bretti called a timeout and pulled Vigier for an extra attacker. The move eventually backfired as Johnson scored a shorthanded goal, his sixth goal of the season, into an empty net. P.J. Hiscock received the lone assist.
“I think Mercyhurst showed why they are a first place team,” Bretti said. “I wasn’t really dissatisfied with our effort, but I felt the turning point was that we needed to cash in [during] the second period. We really came out and played well for the first 15 minutes of the period and had nothing to show for it.”
“There is no way you are going to keep Mercyhurst at bay and we couldn’t seize the moment and it us cost us the game.”
Mercyhurst (16-11-2; 16-4-2 MAAC) visits West Point to play Army at Tate Rink in a 7:00 p.m. game. Iona (8-20-2; 8-13-1 MAAC) hosts Canisius on Senior Night as the Gaels finish their home schedule with a 5:00 p.m. start at the New Roc Ice Skating Center.