ERIE, Pa. — Momentum swung back and forth like a greased pendulum in Quinnipiac’s rematch with Mercyhurst on Saturday.
First, Quinnipiac scored twice, and seemed to be a totally different team than the one that was beaten by the Lakers 5-1 on Friday.
Then, Mercyhurst fought back with two goals, tying it at 2.
Quinnipiac then scored two more times, taking a 4-2 lead, seemingly leaving the Bobcats in control.
But never-say-die Mercyhurst bounced back once more, scoring two more goals to tie the game, 4-4, and almost scored again late in regulation to win it.
Then came overtime — and when 65 minutes of thrilling, bruising, end-to-end action had concluded, that’s the way things ended — a 4-4 tie.
It was one whale of a hockey game.
In the end, however, the only ones who went home satisfied were the 1,032 fans at the Mercyhurst Ice Center who witnessed the well-played, hard-fought, dramatic battle between Atlantic Hockey’s second and third-place teams.
“It was a great game from a fan’s perspective,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “They couldn’t ask for more.”
“Like last night, it was another great game between two good teams,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said, echoing Pecknold’s assessment. “Quinnipiac played well, and we played well. Maybe a tie tonight was fitting.”
Both coaches, of course, would have preferred a win — but it was not to be.
“I was happy my kids played hard, but I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t hold a two-goal lead in the third period,” Pecknold said, referring to late goals by Lakers Mike Pochatek and Peter Rynshoven that tied the game.
“But you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Mercyhurst,” Pecknold said. “They threw everything at us in the third period, and came back and got the tie.”
With the tie, Mercyhurst’s record went to 14-9-2 overall, and 11-3-1 in Atlantic Hockey. Quinnipiac’s record went to 10-10-3 overall, and 7-3-3 in the conference. The tie kept the Bobcats six points behind Mercyhurst for third place. It also increased Mercyhurst’s conference unbeaten streak to eight.
As any coach would, Pecknold wanted more than the tie. But his team certainly fared better on Saturday than it did in Friday’s game with the Lakers.
“We worked hard last night, too,” Pecknold said, referring to the Bobcats’ 5-1 loss on Friday. “Tonight we executed a little bit better, but I’m disappointed that we came out of the weekend with just one point out of four.
“We certainly wanted more than that, but that’s the way it goes.”
Gotkin, on the other hand, seemed relieved that the Lakers got a point in a game it appeared they were going to lose.
“I don’t think we played as well as last night,” he said. “But we know that this is a good league, and it’s hard to win every night. You had two really good teams who were battling, and it was a really well-played series this weekend.”
Besides Mercyhurst’s comeback, the story of the game had to be backup netminder Justin Eddy, who got the nod by Pecknold after regular goaltender Jamie Holden surrendered five goals on Friday.
“Justin played well,” Pecknold said. “We have two great goalies, and have faith that either one can win us games. Justin’s had some monster games this year with us, against Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and we have full faith in him.”
Although he too would have preferred to have won, Eddy was pleased to have been able to contribute.
“We got one point out of the weekend, but in retrospect, we blew a two goal lead,” he said.
“We really wanted to come out of this weekend with at least one victory. It’s really tough to play up here, and I think there were some positives that we can take out of it, but our team’s disappointed that it ended in a tie.”
Although he allowed four goals, Eddy stopped 33 of Mercyhurst’s 37 shots, including Mike Carter on a breakaway at 19 minutes, 52 seconds of the second period, and Adam Tackaberry on a breakaway at 17:29 of the third.
“Those Mercyhurst guys know how to move the puck, and you have to respect their skills,” Eddy said. “I just tried to get my body in front of anything I could tonight.”
“He played well, there’s no question,” Gotkin said. “We had some great chances early, and certainly had some great chances in the third period and overtime, but we just couldn’t get the puck into the net.”
Ty Deinema’s goal at 5:43 of the first period spotted the Bobcats their 1-0 lead, and Troy Maleyko made it 2-0 four minutes later. Deinema beat Mercyhurst goalie Andy Franck from 30 feet on the left side, while Maleyko beat him from the slot.
Mike Carter then beat Eddy from the doorstep at 19:08 of the first to make it 2-1, and at 7:00 of the second period Tackaberry finished a 2-on-1 that was started by Rynshoven to tie it at 2.
Iona transfer Mark Hellam’s rebound score at 13:55 of the second period put the Bobcats back up, 3-2, and Tom Watkin’s first goal of the season, off a centering pass from Joe Versino at 1:56 of the third, restored Quinnipiac’s two-goal lead, 4-2.
But then came Pochatek with his first goal of the season, on a rebound of Kyle Gourgon’s shot from the point at 3:33 of the third, followed by Rynshoven’s game-tying score at 12:38.
“That was one of the best goals I’ve ever seen scored in this rink,” Gotkin said about Rynshoven’s goal, which came after the senior winger undressed a pair of Quinnipiac defenders with a dazzling move at the blue line, then beat Eddy top-shelf on the far side after switching from his forehand to his backhand.
“He looked like a pro. Peter’s a big kid, and to be able to come down the wing with his speed, pull it through a couple of pairs of legs, then walk in and finish it, wow. It was unbelievable.”
“T. J. Kemp gave me a long cross-ice pass, and it was on the stick,” Rynshoven said. “I busted in alone on the defense, and it was a fifty-fifty chance either I was going to get it through their legs or get knocked over, but I was fortunate enough to get it through.
“I was one-on-one with the goalie, and made a move,” Rynshoven continued. “He dropped right away, and didn’t move side to side, so I figured if he was going to stay there, I was going to walk around him, and I scored.”
About the weekend series between the two teams, Rynshoven said, “We always play close with Quinnipiac, they’re our league rival. We had a good weekend, and look forward to moving on from here.”
Mercyhurst finished with a 37-24 advantage in shots on goal, including 16-4 in the third period, and 1-0 in overtime. Franck, whose record went to 11-5-2, stopped 20 shots for the Lakers. Eddy’s record moved to 2-5-1.
Quinnipiac’s penalty-killers also aided Eddy and the Bobcats, thwarting all eight of Mercyhurst’s power plays, including one in overtime. The Bobcats were 1-of-5 with a man advantage.
Mercyhurst returns to action on Friday and Saturday at Sacred Heart. Next week the Bobcats host Canisius on Friday, then travel to American International on Saturday.