College Hockey:
Marquee Rivalry: Craig, Quinnipiac Overcome Mercyhurst

— Notwithstanding the snow that fell before, during and after the game at the Northford Ice Pavilion, nothing was going to stop Quinnipiac Friday against Mercyhurst.

Two goals from Quinnipiac’s Matt Craig propelled the Bobcats to a 5-2 win over the Lakers in the biggest rivalry in Atlantic Hockey.

The Lakers still own the all-time series lead (7-6-2), and leads in the championships category with two titles to Quinnipiac’s one. However, Friday the Bobcats remained unbeaten in Atlantic hockey this season.

The Bobcats struck just 3:44 into the game when Matt Craig snuck behind defenseman Jamie Hunt at the Mercyhurst blueline. Craig took a perfect pass through center from Matt Froehlich and skated in for a breakaway. Craig took very little time to wrist the puck over Andy Franck’s blocker to put the Bobcats up 1-0.

The Bobcats added to the lead at the 9:03 mark when Craig scored again, this time on the power play. Craig saw an abandoned puck in the slot and brought it around the left-hand side. Franck had lost sight of the puck in the traffic, meaning all Craig had to do was put it in the wide-open net.

That gave the reigning Player of the Week in Atlantic Hockey his second goal of the game, and the Bobcats the 2-0 lead.

“The guys were fired up to play Mercyhurst, and they were upset about last year’s championship loss, and we came out and got all over them,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold.

The Lakers dug themselves in a little deeper at 7:19 when Mercyhurst’s Peter Rynshoven was called for interference. On the ensuing power play, Quinnipiac’s Rob Hammel won the draw back to Troy Maleyko, who found Chris White on the far post to redirect the puck into the back of the net.

In the second period the Bobcats continued the onslaught with another power-play goal. Chris White hit Ryan Morton with a pass to the left of the Mercyhurst net. Morton’s first whack was stopped by Franck, but perseverance paid off as he got a second shot from a nearly-impossible angle to sneak the puck inside the right post to make it 4-0.

“We really dug ourselves a big hole, on the road against a really good team, and it is a long way back. You get what you deserve in this game, and I think we got what we deserved tonight,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin.

Mercyhurst struck back later in the period on the power play. The Lakers, who came into the night two tenths of a percentage point behind Brown for the top power play in the country, finally converted with 10:38 left in the period.

Jamie Hunt took a shot from the point that was knocked down in traffic and ended up on the stick of Adam Tackaberry, who deflected it over Jamie Holden’s right shoulder to cut the deficit.

In the third period, the Lakers tried to mount a comeback with another goal at 14:35. Adam Tackaberry scored his sixth power-play goal of the season (second in the nation in that category) after picking up the puck in the offensive end and going in one-on-one against Holden. Tackaberry snuck the puck through, and the Lakers trailed 4-2 with 5:25 to go.

But any vision of a comeback disappeared when Quinnipiac’s Craig Falite returned the favor in the Lakers’ zone. At 16:42, Falite picked off a Mercyhurst pass in front of its own net and backhanded it between Franck’s legs to put the Bobcats back up by three.

The Bobcats picked up their fourth win in Atlantic Hockey to remain unbeaten at 4-0-2, and improved to 7-5-2 overall.

“We need to enjoy this for about an hour … actually about a half-hour, and then we need to get ready to play Canisius tomorrow,” said Pecknold. Quinnipiac will host Canisius at 4 p.m.

The Lakers’ loss drops their record to 3-3 in Atlantic Hockey and 5-5-1 overall. Mercyhurst faces American International on Saturday at 4.

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