ERIE, Pa. — With his team trailing Atlantic Hockey Association foe Connecticut 4-2 headed into the third period, Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin’s message to his players was simple: do you want to win, or do you want to lose?
The Lakers answered with a resounding yes — they wanted to win. Very badly.
Particularly center Rich Hansen, who scored with 57 seconds remaining in overtime to cap a four-goal explosion by Mercyhurst, and a 6-5 victory over the shellshocked Huskies before a crowd of 650 at the Mercyhurst Ice Center.
“The message was that if you guys want to win the game, you’ll win the game, and if you don’t want to win the game, you won’t win the game,” Gotkin said. “The players took it upon the themselves that they were going to find a way to win, and they did.”
Hansen’s game-winner came off a feed from linemate David Wrigley, who scored four goals in Mercyhurst’s 7-2 win over Army on Friday. It completed a four-point weekend for the Lakers, who remained perfect in the AHA at 3-0 and improved to 4-1 overall.
“Like most overtime goals, it wasn’t pretty,” said Hansen, a 5-11, 180-pound junior from Northport, N.Y., whose father Ritchie played for the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues in the ’70s.
“I just threw it to the net hoping for anything, because you never know in overtime, and it deflected off a defender’s stick and trickled into the net. It was kind of a lucky goal, I’ll say.”
Hansen’s goal was his third of the season. Defenseman Mike Kirby also assisted.
“It was a wild game, and no matter how you want to slice it and dice it, UConn played us very well, and we were lucky to win this hockey game,” Gotkin said.
“I don’t know how we did, because we were awful. But we were good when we had to be,” he added.
“What turned the game around?” Huskies coach Bruce Marshall asked himself out loud. “We turned the game around for them.
“We stopped playing as hard as we had been, (and) we didn’t stop their second wave of attack, which we knew that we needed to do. When you have a 4-1 lead like that going into the third period, I expect more out of these guys.
“I’m very disappointed with the way let things turn out,” said Marshall, who is in his 14th year at UConn.
Connecticut took charge early, jumping to a 1-0 lead on Beau McLaughlin’s goal, his third of the season, at 9:52 of the first period. McLaughlin scored on starting goalie Justin Wakefield, a freshman, who saw his first action in a Mercyhurst uniform.
Senior Adam Tackaberry, a left-winger, tied the game on a power-play goal from between the faceoff circles just 25 seconds later. Tackaberry’s goal was his fourth of the season, all on power plays, and the first of three power-play goals that Mercyhurst would score.
The second period belonged to the Huskies, who scored three times to go up 4-1, and outshot the Lakers 15-10.
Freshman Scott McDougall’s goal on a deflection of William West’s shot made it 2-1, then Tim Olsen scored off the left goalpost at 12:57 to make it 3-1. McDonald’s goal was his second, and Olsen’s his first.
Chris Uber then jammed home a rebound of Eric St. Arnauld’s shot to increase UConn’s lead to 4-1 at 13:24 of the second. It was Uber’s first goal of the year.
David Borrelli started Mercyhurst’s comeback with a momentum-building score with 23 seconds remaining in the second period, cutting Connecticut’s lead to 4-2.
Borrelli’s goal, his second of the year, came on a rebound of Pat Henk’s shot and was a power-play goal with Adam Rhein off for interference.
After regular goalie Andy Franck replaced Wakefield to start the third period, Scott Reynolds scored another power-play goal to cut the Lakers’ deficit to 4-3 at 7:24. Uber was in the box for hooking during Reynolds’ goal, his second of the season.
Brian Burns beat Franck on a wrist shot from the slot at 9:31 to restore UConn’s two-goal lead, 5-3, but freshman Kyle Gourgon and senior Peter Rynshoven scored within a 54-second span to tie the game at 5. The goals were the second of the season for Burns, Gourgon and Rynshoven.
Mercyhurst had a chance to win the game when a penalty shot was called just 12 seconds into overtime. The Lakers were awarded the free shot after Connecticut defenseman Mark Murphy was called for covering up the puck in the goal crease. Wrigley’s attempt at the five-hole was stopped by Huskies’ goalie Scott Tomes, however.
Then came Hansen’s game-winner.
“When we were up 4-1 we needed to keep pressuring them, and we didn’t,” said Connecticut captain Eric Nelson. “We just got lackadaisical, and it was completely our fault,” he said. “No two ways about it.”
Connecticut owned a 45-38 advantage in shots on goal, and a 5-4 advantage in overtime. Franck, who improved his career record to 24-7-0, made big saves on Matthew Scherer, Trevor Stewart, Nelson and McLaughlin in overtime.
Tomes took the loss, his record dropping to 2-3-1. The loss dropped UConn to 1-2-0 in the AHA, and 2-4-1 overall.