TROY, N.Y. — Mercyhurst scored three unanswered goals, including the game-winner with just 1:44 left in the third period, to defeat Rensselaer, 3-2, in the nightcap of the 53rd Annual Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament before a crowd of 3,878 at the Houston Field House in Troy, N.Y.
The Lakers (7-6-1), who got 40 saves from freshman netminder Jordan Wakefield, advance to face Northeastern in the Championship Game on Monday night at 7pm. The Engineers (8-6-2) will take on Colgate, 6-4 losers to the Huskies in the opening game, in Monday’s consolation game (4pm).
Mercyhurst’s tie-breaking goal came off the stick of defenseman TJ Kemp, who jammed a loose puck into the back of the net off a scramble. Mike Carter earned the only assist on the play as he fed the puck in front and Kemp pinched in to poke it past Nathan Marsters.
The Engineers jumped out to an early lead when junior Nick Economakos stuffed home his own rebound from the right side of the crease at 15:33 of the first period. Sophomore Kevin Croxton earned the only assist on the goal, Economakos’ fourth of the season.
Economakos made it 2-0 just 13 seconds into the second period when he deflected a Keith McWilliams right-point shot past Wakefield.
The Lakers climbed to within one goal when David Wrigley’s shot from the left circle slipped under RPI goaltender Nathan Marsters’ right pad and into the net for a power-play goal. Adam Tackaberry set up Wrigley’s marker, his sixth of the season, while Rich Hansen also earned a helper.
Wrigley tied the game at 15:35 of the second when he slammed home a Scott Champagne pass from the right side of the crease. Conrad Martin also earned an assist on the goal.
Wakefield improves to 2-2-0 on the season while Marsters, who had 18 saves, falls to 7-5-1.
The win by Mercyhurst was the first-ever win by a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association over the Engineers.
“I thought we had a lot of opportunities to put them away early and we didn’t capitalize on them,” said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. “You leave a team like that hanging around and they gain confidence as the game wears on. You also have a couple of breakdowns and the puck ends up in the back of the net. You’re looking for a better fate than what we ended up with, but that’s the game of hockey.
“If you’re only going to score two goals in one game, there have to be no defensive flaws in the game. We certainly played hard and worked hard.”
“We enjoyed the win a lot,” said Laker head coach Rick Gotkin, who was an assistant at RPI in the late 1980′s. “We’ve won our share and we’ve lost our share and winning is a lot better. We’ve won some big games out of conference. Wakefield played well in goal and we liked our game all game long, but we started to execute in the second period. The outcome was something that we feel real good about.
“We have a big task ahead of us tomorrow in Northeastern and we’ll have to play very well in order to win.”
Mercyhurst will go for its first Division I in-season tournament championship.