NORTHFORD, Conn. — Rookie Ryan Toomey scored 2:03 into overtime to give third-seeded Mercyhurst a 4-3 win over fourth-seed Holy Cross Friday evening in the second semifinal game of the Atlantic Hockey tournament. The Lakers (17-15-4) will face top-seeded Quinnipiac Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in the Atlantic Hockey championship at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
Taking the faceoff deep in the Crusader zone, Toomey won the draw and drove to the net with the puck, putting a move on Holy Cross netminder Tony Quesada and sending the Mercyhurst bench over the boards in celebration.
“We played a great Holy Cross team here tonight,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin. “Holy Cross played the game the way it should be played, they played hard, they played their systems great, they’re well coached and very skilled, and it’s a fine hockey team that we were able to beat. The sense that we were able to beat a team like that makes it even more special for us.”
“It was a great college hockey game,” said Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl. “Both teams played very well tonight. Mercyhurst was able to get the last goal tonight, which means that they won. Both teams at times controlled the game, and both teams at times were on the run. The two goaltenders in the game were excellent. Unfortunately, one team won, and one team didn’t.”
The Lakers struck first on the scoresheet. Matt Warren broke into the Crusader zone leading a two-on-one charge with David Wrigley trailing. Warren dished the puck off to Wrigley on the left side, and Wrigley’s shot rang true at 2:45, beating Quesada before he could recover.
It didn’t take long for the Crusaders to respond, tying the contest at one exactly 45 seconds later. Tyler McGregor fought off a defender on his way to the net with the puck, jamming it home as he reached the goal mouth at 3:30.
McGregor had an opportunity to net his second goal of the game midway through the period. With the puck at his feet and an open net in front of him, McGregor couldn’t get enough of the puck to put a decent shot on net before being run over by the Mercyhurst defense. The two teams skated into the first intermission tied at one.
The Crusaders took the lead at the 5:37 mark of the second period. As he stepped onto the ice from the penalty box, James Sixsmith collected the puck in the neutral zone and skated across the Laker blueline on a two-on-one opportunity. Sixsmith fed the puck to Dale Reinhardt on the left side of the slot, and Reinhardt’s shot beat Mercyhurst goaltender Mike Ella low along the ice.
Mercyhurst tied the game at two less than two minutes later. In transition, defenseman T.J. Kemp sent the puck up ice from his own blueline, finding teammate Scott Reynolds at the Holy Cross blueline only after the puck grazed off the stick of a Crusader. Reynolds had a clear path to the net, wristing his shot high over Tony Quesada at 7:20.
Forward Scott Champagne gave Mercyhurst a 3-2 advantage less than a minute later with his 11th goal of the season. Breaking into the Crusader zone unobstructed and thwarted by a dazzling save by Quesada, Champagne found himself free in front of the net in the slot. Rookie Ben Cottreau sent a perfect pass from the left corner to Champagne, and Champagne made sure not to miss a second time.
The Lakers looked to have the advantage late in the second frame, as three separate Crusaders went to the penalty box in under three minutes, creating two 5-on-3 situations for the Lakers. Good defense and great goaltending kept Mercyhurst from increasing its lead, though, and Holy Cross found a way to turn the tables before the end of the period.
On the power play deep in the Mercyhurst zone, Holy Cross’ Andrew McKay took the puck from behind the Laker net and skated to the right side of the cage. McKay stopped ten feet from the goal line, spun and fired a bullet that beat Ella glove-side high at 18:13, tying the two teams at 3.
The third period saw plenty of scoring opportunities, but neither netminder seemed willing to give up the goal in regulation. Ella prevented Tony Coskren of Holy Cross from exacting some revenge with a glove save with less than a second remaining on the clock.
Three weeks prior, the Lakers took a 4-3 win in Worcester with a Ben Cottreau game winner with only 11 seconds remaining. It may not have come in regulation for Mercyhurst, but the Toomey goal proved timely, sending Holy Cross packing 2:03 into overtime.
“It feels great to get that goal,” said Toomey. “All year long I’ve been struggling, I’ve been getting my chances but they haven’t gone in, and I was starting to get frustrated with myself.”
Ella made 35 saves on the evening, stopping double-digit attempts through each period in regulation but making no saves in overtime, while Quesada of Holy Cross stopped 32 attempts, 19 of which came in the second period. The Crusaders saw limited production on the power play, going 1-for-6 on the evening, while Mercyhurst was scoreless on its six opportunities.
“We’re excited to have a chance to play another night,” commented Gotkin. “We’re going to have to play very well tomorrow night to beat a good Quinnipiac team, and we know that, but we’ll start talking about that later on tonight.
Holy Cross ends its season at 16-14-6, and will not have the opportunity to defend its 2004 Atlantic Hockey tournament title. Mercyhurst will meet rival Quinnipiac Saturday evening in the championship.