ERIE, Pa. — To upset No. 7 Mercyhurst atop the CHA standings, Niagara coach Margot Page knew her players had to be ready from beginning to end and take advantage of anything the Lakers gave them. But Mercyhurst gave them nothing in a 5-0 victory Friday night in front of 530 fans.
Defenseman Ashley Pendleton led the way with two goals for the No. 7 Lakers (16-5-2, 6-0-1 CHA), and freshman goaltender Laura Hosier stopped all 19 shots from Niagara (9-10-2, 2-2-1) for her sixth victory of the season.
“They are a very strong offensive team,” Page said. “They get a lot of shots off and we have to be accountable on the defensive end and hope we get lucky on the offensive end and find some rebounds.”
The rebounds were hard to come by as Hosier didn’t give up many second chances. Her save percentage improved to a sterling .957 for the season.
“The defense was amazing tonight,” Hosier said. “I got a good look at all the shots and if I gave up a rebound, they cleared it right away.”
With two goals tonight, Pendleton tripled her total for the season. She provided all the offense Hosier would need at 14:12 of the first period, when she walked in around a crowd and hit a low shot past Niagara goaltender Allison Rutledge. The Niagara goalie made 37 saves herself.
Sara McDonald gave Mercyhurst a 2-0 advantage at 7:49 of the second period when she stuffed home a rebound after a flurry of shots. Pendleton’s second goal, the Lakers’ third, came at 10:12 when she redirected a slapshot taken by freshman Danielle Ayearst on a 5-on-3.
Probably the prettiest goal of the night was Mercyhurst’s fourth, when super freshman Stephanie Jones scored late in the third on a great individual effort. Jones picked up the puck at center ice, skated in with a defender on her back and backhanded the puck through Rutledge’s skates with just under three minutes left.
Freshman Sherilyn Fraser added her third goal of the year with a little under two minutes to go in the game when captain Chrissy Yule found her all alone in front of the net to wrist the precision pass into the back of the net.
The Purple Eagles may not have brought their absolute best tonight but tomorrow’s rematch may prove to be exciting as both teams played some rough hockey, particularly in the third period. The teams combined for three roughing penalties at the end of the second period, and Mercyhurst had three slashing penalties in the third period.
Of the physical play near the end, Sisti said, “We pride ourselves on being an extremely hard working and disciplined team. Things did get a little spirited out there but our kids know the importance of where we are at this point in the season and they have to keep their heads to accomplish their goals.”
Laker coach Mike Sisti was cautiously optimistic going into the league matchup after winning five in a row and eight of nine. He knew the team needed a balance effort, and he got it. Ten different Lakers figured on the scoring and 16 put shots on goal in addition to their usual efforts that don’t show on the stat sheet.
“We know this is a great rivalry and we will get Niagara’s absolute best,” Sisti said entering the weekend. “We have to be up to the challenge and get contributions from all our players.”
Page hopes tomorrow will bring different results.
Page said, “The game is over. We talked about it. We refocused and we know where we stand. A little food in the belly and a good night sleep and we will be good to go tomorrow.”
The two rivals will go at it again on Saturday at 2:05 p.m.