ERIE, Pa. — “One is the loneliest number, since the number two.”
Some 36 years later, those haunting words by Three Dog Night tell the story of Mercyhurst’s season.
Going back even more, “One Fine Day,” a 1963 hit by the Chiffons, would have great significance for Connecticut right about now.
That’s because UConn’s harried 4-3 overtime victory over the Lakers before a crowd of 783 at the Mercyhurst Ice Center on Friday was the first time in seven attempts that the Huskies skated out of the MIC with a victory.
The Chiffons, wherever they may be, would be proud.
“We had a tie here once, and [had] some interesting things happen, but never a win,” UConn coach Bruce Marshall (17th year, 245-218-47) said after his Huskies tied the game midway through the third period, then got the game-winner just 21 seconds into overtime.
“Our seniors have never beaten Mercyhurst on the road, and for that to happen, it’s a nice way for them to go out in their last year,” Marshall said.
Nice for the seniors, sure. But even nicer for the Huskies (11-20-2 overall, 10-10-1 in Atlantic Hockey) was the fact that their big win vaulted them into a fifth-place tie with the Lakers (10-15-4, 9-7-3).
And nicer yet for the Huskies, it brought them within a point of fourth-place Quinnipiac (10-6-2), a 2-1 loser to Canisius Friday, for a home game in the first round of the conference tournament.
For the Lakers, it was a continuation of a nightmare that they just can’t seem to awaken from — one-goal losses. Lots of them. Ten in the 12 one-goal games that they’ve been in.
And that’s pretty lonely.
“This is how the season has gone,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin (17th year, 308-182-32) said, shaking his head in frustration. “I thought we played pretty good, but for some reason we just can’t get over the hump. Why, I don’t know.”
“It’s a big win for us,” said junior center Chris Uber, who scored the game-winner off a feed from Matt Scherer just 21 ticks into the five-minute sudden-death OT.
“We struggled the other night against Holy Cross, but prior to that we had gotten a few in a row, and we were really looking to move up in the standings one or two spots before it’s all said and done.”
Uber said that his big goal — a two-point goal, so to speak — started from a faceoff in the neutral zone.
“Scherer got the puck on the boards, and he made a great pass to the middle,” Uber said. “It was slanted over to Ollie (Tim Olsen), and he did a great job to hit me back door.”
Uber beat Mercyhurst goalie Andy Franck from the slot, and sent his team into delirium.
“The puck went into the penalty box just before that, so I was able to get the guys out there that I wanted,” Marshall said. “We caught them in transition, and Uber made a nice play. He had somebody on his left side that the goalie had to be worrying about, then he just put the puck where he needed to.”
The goal was Uber’s eighth of the season, and second game-winner. Had it not been for Trevor Stewart, however, Uber’s goal would never have happened.
With Mercyhurst owning a 3-2 lead midway into the third period and seemingly in control, Mark Murphy sprung Stewart on a breakaway.
“I came off the bench, and saw that Mercyhurst was up in the play a little too far,” Stewart said. “Murphy saw me break into the seam, and his pass deflected right over a defenseman’s stick, allowing me a breakaway. The goalie gave me a high glove, and it went in.”
Stewart’s goal, which was also assisted by Matt Grew, was his second of the season.
Prior to Stewart’s goal, David Wrigley’s power play score at 12:05 of the second period staked the Lakers to their first lead, 3-2, after having trailed 2-0 in period one.
Connecticut’s 2-0 lead came within a 53-second span in the first period, on goals by Scherer (his 10th) and Mike Neilon (his fifth). Scherer scored off a centering pass from Olsen at 15:48, then Neilon deflected Adam Rhein’s slap shot from the left point past Franck at 16:41.
After struggling in the first period, the Lakers owned the second. T.J. Kemp, Jamie Hunt and Wrigley made sure of that.
Kemp surprised Huskies’ goalie Scott Tomes when Kyle Gourgon’s attempted shot slithered over to him after Gourgon partially fanned. The goal was Kemp’s fifth. Hunt (his fifth) jammed home a rebound of Scott Champagne’s shot, and Wrigley (his team-leading 13th) scored off a feed from Hunt.
Hunt’s and Wrigley’s goals were power play scores, making the Lakers 2-for-7 on power play attempts in the game. Wrigley’s goal, which was his fifth in the past three games, came on a 4-on-3 Mercyhurst advantage.
“I give our guys lots of credit from battling back from a 2-0 deficit, then taking the lead,” Gotkin said. “We were dominating at that point, and had some great chances to make it 4-2, but couldn’t. Then they tie it on a breakaway, and we lose in overtime. No excuses, but that’s how it’s been all year.
“It’s been a frustrating year, and it sure hasn’t gotten any easier,” Gotkin said, adding, “that fourth spot is still up for grabs, and any one of three teams (Quinnipiac, UConn and Mercyhurst) can get it. It’s felt like playoff hockey for us the past couple of weeks, and I’m sure the others are thinking the same thing.”
Mercyhurst outshot UConn 38-30 in the game, and 24-15 in periods two and three. Tomes captured the victory, increasing his record to 8-8-1. Franck fell to 9-12-3.
The teams meet again on Saturday, again at Mercyhurst — where the Huskies would love to go dancing with the Chiffons, and the Lakers would like to trash anything by Three Dog Night.