STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut staved off a late Mercyhurst charge to advance to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals with a 5-4 victory over the Lakers Saturday evening at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
With the win, UConn improved to 16-17-2 while reaching the AHA semis for the second consecutive season. The third-seeded Huskies will face No. 2 seed Army Friday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. from the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.
UConn jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period when senior B.J. Crum netted his first of two goals on the night. With the Huskies skating 5-on-3 after two Mercyhurst penalties, Crum blasted a shot from just to the left of the circle into the upper right corner of the Laker net.
The Huskies extended their lead to 3-0 after UConn scored a pair of goals over a 42-second span.
Freshman Michael Coppola gathered a pass from junior Charles Solberg and beat Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Wakefield with a shot into the lower corner of the net, and Husky senior captain Matt Scherer capped the first-period scoring spree with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season.
Skating on a 2-on-1 breakaway with sophomore Nick Schneider, Scherer corralled a cross-ice pass from Schneider and fired a one-timer into the back of the Mercyhurst net.
Mercyhurst stormed out in the second period and scored the first two goals to cut the Husky lead to one.
Scott Champagne scored the Lakers’ first goal when he left the puck for Ben Cottreau, who dished it back to Champagne for a shot that beat Husky goalie Beau Erickson. Ryan Toomey put the Lakers behind by just one goal, 3-2, when he deflected a Kyle Gourgon slapshot into the Husky net midway through the second period.
UConn answered just over four minutes later when freshman Brendan Olinyk tallied his fourth goal of the season. Olinyk intercepted a Laker pass and skated up the right side of the ice before firing a shot to beat Wakefield with the final goal of the second period.
Crum struck for his second goal of the night less than five minutes into the third period to extend UConn’s lead back to three goals at 5-2. Standing in virtually the same place where he scored his first goal, Crum received consecutive passes from seniors Brian Burns and Trevor Stewart and blasted another goal past Wakefield.
The Lakers began to chip away at the UConn lead by scoring their first goal of the third period at the 11:40 mark. Matt Pierce scored his 11th goal of the season off an assist from Matt Warren to make the score 5-3 in favor of the Huskies.
Toomey then scored his second goal of the night with just under two minutes remaining when he poked in a rebound for Mercyhurst’s fourth and final goal of the night.
Erickson, the CSTV/HCA National Rookie of the Month for February, finished the evening with 32 saves and upped his overall record to 10-6-2 in the process.