ERIE, Pa. — Mercyhurst got back into not one, but two familiar places in its Atlantic Hockey Association matchup with Bentley on Friday — on its own ice and in the win column.
Ending a 10-game road trip, and playing their first game at the Mercyhurst Ice Center since Nov. 15, the Lakers combined goals by Mike Carter and David Wrigley with a 36-save performance by sophomore goaltender Andy Franck to beat the scrappy Falcons 2-1 before a crowd of 856.
The win snapped Mercyhurst’s three-game losing streak, and was the team’s first victory since defeating RIP 3-2 on Dec. 28th. It lifted the Lakers to 8-9-1 overall, and 5-3 in the AHA, moving them into a second-place tie with Quinnipiac (4-1-2), which lost 3-0 at Canisius on Friday.
Bentley fell to 3-10-4 overall and 1-5-4 in the AHA. With Army’s 5-2 victory over American International on Friday, and Canisius’ victory, the Falcons fell into eighth place in the conference, a point ahead of last-place AIC (2-6-1).
“It’s been a long road trip, and it feels nice to be back home and finally win,” said Laker coach Rick Gotkin, whose 16-year record at Mercyhurst improved to 286-164-27.
Gotkin’s 286th career victory made him the all-time wins leader for any coach in any sport at Mercyhurst, surpassing former baseball coach Joe Jordano’s 285.
“Bentley has a real good team, and they played real hard,” said Gotkin. “They gave us a real battle, but we played our best down the stretch, particularly when they made it 2-1.”
Carter’s goal, his fifth of the season, came at 17 minutes, 45 seconds of the first period, and permitted the Lakers to enter the locker room with a 1-0 lead despite getting outshot 19-12.
Erik Johnson and Jon Asselstine assisted on Carter’s goal, while freshmen Scott Champagne and Pat Henk assisted on Wrigley’s score.
Carter’s goal came after a giveaway by the Falcons in the neutral zone. Asselstine got the puck to Johnson, who went in on a 2-on-1 break with Carter. Skating in from the right side, Johnson got the puck to Carter on the left, who beat Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre from 20 feet.
Wrigley’s score, his team-leading 10th of the season, came at 3:47 of the second period, and proved to be the game-winner. Shooting from the left side, Wrigley scored into the upper right corner after Champaign got him the puck with his skate.
“It was just a fortunate bounce,” said Wrigley. “I was circling out of the corner in front of the net, and Champaign kind of kicked it back to me, which was real good hockey sense. The puck just bounced right on my stick and I had a two-person screen and hit the corner.”
Bentley’s only goal came off the stick of Ryan Mayhew with just 1:47 remaining in regulation, ruining Franck’s bid for his first shutout of the season. Mayhew’s score, his fourth of the season, came when he jammed the puck past Franck from the doorstep on the left side. Brendan McCartin and Carmen Posteraro assisted.
Although Franck did not get a shutout, Gotkin was pleased with his young goaltender’s performance.
“Andy played wonderfully,” Gotkin said. “He played what we call ‘championship goaltending,’ which we need to have. He competed well, made some huge saves, and made all the saves he had to make.”
Franck made spectacular glove saves off Josh Thompson in the first period and McCartin in the second period. He also made a great blocker save on a shot from point-blank range by Brett Murphy in the third period.
“I lost a shutout with 16 seconds remaining against Canisius, so I don’t have a lot of luck with shutouts,” Franck said. “But we played well, and got the win.”
About his quick glove, Franck said, “They were shooting from the outside, and I had pretty much of a clear lane on every shot. In the third period they started scrambling in front, but my defensemen gave me the lane and I was able to get in front of the shot.”
“Andy stops the pucks whether they’re easy or tough shots, and he always keeps us in the game.” Wrigley said. “We can always count on him to be there for us.”
The win lifted Franck’s record to 6-5-1.
Despite the loss, second-year Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist (18-29-4) was pleased with his team’s play, as well as the play of junior netminder St. Pierre, who stopped 34 of Mercyhurst’s 36 shots.
“Both teams played extremely well, and goaltending both ways was the story,” Soderquist said. “Mercyhurst could have scored a lot more goals, and we could have too had Franck and St. Pierre not played as well as they did.”
Soderquist agreed that Franck was sharp with his glove. “He was exceptionally sharp,” Soderquist said. “We had some point-blank shots on 2-on-1′s, and he cut down the angle. We couldn’t beat him.”
Bentley outshot the Lakers 37-36, although Mercyhurst owned a 15-9 shots advantage in the third period. Bentley put together a streak of 11 consecutive shots on goal in the first period, when the Falcons outshot the Lakers 19-12.
A total of 24 penalties were assessed, with Mercyhurst getting hit for 37 minutes to 22 for Bentley. Mercyhurst’s Johnson was assessed a major and game disqualification for spearing with 1:30 remaining in regulation.
Penalty-killing was at its best, with the Mercyhurst failing to score in seven power plays and Bentley not scoring in eight.
The two teams meet again Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Mercyhurst.