ERIE, Pa. — When things got tough for Mercyhurst against Atlantic Hockey foe American International on Saturday, David Borrelli got even tougher.
After Mercyhurst surrendered another lead of two or more goals for the fourth consecutive game, Borrelli scored twice in the game’s final six minutes to spark the Lakers to a harrowing 4-3 victory over the Yellow Jackets before a crowd of 692 at the Mercyhurst Ice Center.
It was a win that didn’t come easy for the Lakers — like Mercyhurst’s 3-2 victory over AIC on Friday — but unlike Friday, it was a win that pleased Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin.
“I didn’t like the way we played last night (Friday), but I really liked the way that we played tonight,” said Gotkin, whose Lakers climbed to 11-9-1 overall and 8-4-0 in AH.
Although his team surrendered a 2-0 lead midway through the third period, Gotkin was pleased with its desire, and particularly with Borrelli’s.
“Dave Borrelli has emerged as a true leader for this hockey team,” said Gotkin. “He’s producing offensively, he’s producing defensively, and he’s producing with his leadership. And it’s great to see, because we knew that he was able to do this.”
As for Borrelli’s offensive production, Gotkin couldn’t have asked for more, particularly in the late-going, when Borrelli propelled the Lakers into 3-2 and 4-3 leads.
Borrelli’s first goal came at the 14 minute mark of the third period, after AIC’s John Levesque capped a two-goal spurt within a 2:05 span that tied the game at 2-2.
Jay Fennessy once again tied the score, 3-3 with 3:48 remaining in regulation, but Borrelli struck once more, this time just 38 seconds after Fennessy’s score, to make it 4-3.
The goals were the 10th and 11th of the season for Borrelli, a sophomore, tying him with junior David Wrigley for the team lead.
“I was put on a new line tonight with a new centerman, Scott Reynolds, who played a great game,” said Borrelli, explaining his success. “The bounces never went our way at the beginning of the game, but come the end they did, so it was a great win for us.”
With the score tied 2-2, Borrelli’s hustle and a burst of speed, along with a sharp pass from down-deep by Mike Carter, were the ingredients that put the Lakers back up 3-2.
Skating hard to barely get back onside, Borrelli corralled Carter’s pass just inside the blue line, then ripped a 30-foot shot from the left face-off circle that beat Yellow Jackets’ goalie Frank Novello blocker side. The goal was a power play goal, with Troy Johnston off for cross-checking.
“I got hit late behind the play, and I was coming back,” said Borrelli. “One of the defensemen (T. J. Kemp) gave the pass to Carter, and Carter went wide and gave it to me. I just shot, and luckily it beat Frankie (Novello), who had been playing hot all night.”
Borrelli and Novello, who both hail from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., were teammates on the Soo Thunderbirds two seasons ago.
Borrelli’s game-winner, at 16:50, came off a centering pass from behind the net by Reynolds.
“I took the shot wide, but it came back around, and Rennie (Reynolds) picked it up behind the net and gave me a perfect pass,” said Borrelli. “I just beat Frankie down low five-hole. Again, the bounces went our way the last four minutes.”
“Borrelli is a good player,” said AIC coach Gary Wright. “He was a real thorn in our side tonight.”
Although now 3-15-2 overall and 2-8-2 in AH, and in a last-place tie with Bentley, the Jackets gave the Lakers everything they could handle for the second consecutive night.
Particularly tough on Mercyhurst was Novello, who made 43 saves. Mercyhurst outshot AIC 47-32, and 87-52 in the weekend series, with Novello stopping 80 shots in the two games.
“Frank missed four games with a sprained ankle, but has been playing exceptionally well lately,” said Wright. “He’s been real consistent, and played extremely well both nights.”
After a scoreless first period, Kyle Gourgon, a 5-foot-11, 180 pound freshman forward, put the Lakers up 1-0 with a power-play score at 3:02 of the first period. Gourgon beat Novello short side just left of the slot after taking a pass from Kemp. The goal was Gourgon’s seventh, and came with Jeremy Leroux off for interference.
Carter made it 2-0 at 16:38 of the second when he batted home a rebound of Conrad Martin’s shot from the right point. The goal was also the seventh for Carter.
Preston Cicchine pulled AIC back to within 2-1 on a power play goal at 8:31 of the third period, while Preston Briggs was sitting for roughing. Cicchine scored on a slap shot from the left point, beating freshman goalie Jordan Wakefield, who appeared screened.
The goal was Cicchine’s second of the season, and stopped a streak of 26 consecutive penalty kills by the Lakers.
Levesque tied the game at 2-all 2:05 after Cicchine’s goal, beating Wakefield from the doorstep after taking a centering pass from Adam Sinewitz. It was Levesque’s second goal of the season.
After Borrelli’s goal enabled the Lakers to regain a one-goal lead, 3-2, Fennessy tied it again, 3-3, by swatting home Jeason Lecours’ shot off the post. Fennessy’s goal came at 16:12 of the third, and was his first of the year.
Then came Borrelli’s game-winner, and the fourth straight victory for the second-place Lakers, who maintained a four-point lead over third-place Canisius.
Wakefield stopped 29 shots to gain his third victory in the nets versus four defeats. Novello’s record slipped to 2-6-2.
“We’re frustrated because we thought that we gave ourselves a chance at the end of the game,” said Wright.
“But they’re (Mercyhurst) a terrific hockey team, and they’ve been one of the dominant teams in our league, so the good news is that we came over here and competed hard. Hopefully we can build on that, and make a positive out of the loss.”
The victory increased Mercyhurst’s all-time record against AIC to 13-1-1.