ERIE, Pa. — For the second straight night Atlantic Hockey Association foes Mercyhurst and Bentley met at the Mercyhurst Ice Arena. And for the second straight night the eighth-place Falcons gave the second-place Lakers everything they could handle, outshooting them and fighting right up until the final buzzer.
But, for the second straight night, the outcome was the same — a one-goal Mercyhurst victory.
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, Bentley got goals by Ryan Lessnau and Brendan McCartin to cut its deficit, but couldn’t get the puck past sophomore goaltender Andy Franck one more time, finally falling to the Lakers 3-2.
“You’ve got to give Bentley a lot of credit, they’re a really good, scrappy hockey team,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “They never quit, and they just keep coming and coming.”
Although Bentley kept coming and coming, it still wasn’t enough for the Falcons to steal a point during their weekend series in Erie. The loss dropped them to 3-11-4 overall and 1-6-4 in the AHA, and into a tie for last place with American International, which tied Army 2-2 on Saturday.
The win evened Mercyhurst’s record at 9-9-1 overall, and improved the Lakers to 6-3-0 in the AHA. It also enabled them to move into sole possession of second place, two points ahead of Quinnipiac, which for the second straight night lost to Canisius, this time 4-2.
Although Bentley, which fell to the Lakers 2-1 on Friday, once again gave his team quite a scare, Gotkin was pleased that Mercyhurst was able to stave off the Falcons’ late rally and hang on for the win.
“They (Bentley) clearly got the momentum on their first goal, which was a shorthanded goal, then the next thing you know it was 3-2,” he said.
“But I really thought that our guys settled in at 3-2, and did some little things again. Then we got a huge penalty kill, got some saves, and won the game.”
Although he was disappointed that his team came so close but not close enough, Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist was pleased with his team’s gutsy play, as well as where it is at this point.
“They’re (Mercyhurst) a tough team to come back from three goals down, but we never died, and came back, scored two, and battled right to the last faceoff,” Soderquist said.
“Two straight nights we got the puck to the net, and should have put some rebounds past Franck, which came back to haunt us, but I’m pretty pleased with our guys’ play this weekend.
“Overall, effort wise, how our team has been playing the past several games is fine with me,” he said.
David Borrelli, a 5-foot-9, 180 pound sophomore forward from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who scored 50 goals for the Soo Thunderbirds in 2001-02, put Mercyhurst up 1-0 when he beat Bentley goalie Simon St. Pierre at 5:02 of the first period.
Borrelli’s goal came on a pass from Mike Carter during a 2-on-1 break after the Lakers transitioned the puck out of their own zone. It was Borrelli’s eighth goal of the season.
Freshman winger Scott Champaign made it 2-0 at 12:20 of the first when he beat St. Pierre five-hole after pouncing on a rebound of Pat Henk’s shot. Carter also assisted on Champaign’s goal, his third of the season, which was a power-play score with Josh Chase off for crosschecking.
Junior Rich Hansen’s nifty move, when he switched from his forehand to his backhand while cruising in on goal, made it 3-0 at the 14 minute mark of the second period. Hansen’s goal, which proved to be the game-winner, was his fourth. Freshman Mike Pochatek and junior David Wrigley assisted.
“I got a great pass from Pochatek, and I was looking pass the entire time,” said Hansen. “But I saw the goalie cheat the opposite way, so I went to my backhand, and I had a wide-open net.”
Relieved with his team’s victory, Hansen praised Bentley for the battle that they gave the Lakers.
“They kept us on our heels at the end,” he said. “They worked so hard, and constantly came at us. They didn’t give up when they were down 3-0, and kept coming at us. We hung in there, and luckily we came out on top. It was a hard-earned win for us.”
Lessnau’s goal, a shorthanded score, came at 3:19 of the third period, making it 3-1. Lessnau beat Franck on the right side while the Mercyhurst goalie was sliding across ice.
McCartin’s goal, an even strength score at 8:52, cut Bentley’s deficit to 3-2. His shot from the right faceoff circle handcuffed Franck, and slipped between his blocker and the post.
Lessnau’s goal, his fifth of the season, was assisted by Seth Vinocur, while McCartin’s goal, his sixth, was assisted by Paul Markarian and Rob DeLong.
Soderquist was particularly pleased with the play of McCartin, a sophomore, who is in his first year with Bentley after transferring from Fairfield, which discontinued its hockey program after last season.
“He’s (McCartin) doing a great job,” Soderquist said. “He’s got wide open speed, and he let loose tonight. He’s been playing strongly on defense, too.”
“They (Mercyhurst) were a good team, and we knew that all along,” McCartin said. “We came out hard, and gave it everything that we have, but we couldn’t get a point, so we’re disappointed right now.”
Bentley outshot the Lakers, 32-20, including 14-5 in the third period. During the weekend series, the Falcons outshot Mercyhurst 70-56. Franck, who made 30 saves on Saturday and 37 on Friday, increased his record to 7-5-1.
St. Pierre also had a good weekend in the nets, stopping 51 of Mercyhurst’s 56 shots. His record slipped to 3-9-4.