COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Mercyhurst College freshman Scott Pitt is not yet used to being the player of the game in his college career, smiling and apologizing for his lack of eloquence in his post-game remarks.
Instead, he let his play during the Lakers 5-3 victory over the Air Force Academy Fighting Falcons Friday night speak for him.
Pitt scored two power play goals late in the second period ” including the eventual game-winner to give his Lakers (1-5-1, 1-1-1 AHA) their first win of the season.
They were really important to our win tonight, Pitt said afterward. I was just in the right place at the right time and able to bury them.
After a very even first period ” with each squad exchanging a penalty and getting 12 shots on net ” it looked as if the game would remain scoreless going into the middle frame.
However, hockey is a game measured in seconds and with 11 seconds remaining, the Lakers made shot number 13 count for their first first period goal of the season.
Ryan Toomey picked off a Greg Flynn pass intended for Brad Sellers, skated the puck around the back of the Falcon net and passed the puck to Steve Cameron in the slot who put a perfect shot just inside the corner pipes above the right shoulder of Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening (25 saves).
The late goal energized the Lakers, who came on strong to start the second period. Though the energy was hampered a bit with a penalty to sophomore Chris Risi, Mercyhurst was able to go up 2-0 just as the penalty expired. Kerry Bowman picked off another Falcon pass attempt and fired a go-ahead pass to Derek Fisher at the Falcon blue line. Fisher walked in uncontested on Volkening, scoring over the goalies left shoulder.
Just 31 seconds later, the Falcons (3-2, 2-1 AHA) got on the board. Defenseman Frank Schiavone took a pass across the high slot from Blake Page and put it past Lakers netminder Ryan Zapolski to cut the Mercyhurst lead down to one.
Less than a minute later, the Falcons tied it up. A clearing attempt up the side boards was picked off by Michael Mayra whose shot through traffic snuck past Zapolski.
From then on, however, it was the Scott Pitt show, with the freshman getting two power play goals. The first came at the 14:13 mark of the second, putting in a rebound past Volkening. The second was once again a late period tally, coming with 48 seconds remaining in the frame, when Pitt tipped a shot from Matt Pierce past Volkening. Pierce and Ben Cottreau got the helpers on both markers.
Your power plays gotta outwork the penalty kill and I thought it was just the opposite tonight, said Air Force coach Frank Serratore, whose Falcons were 0-for-7 tonight with the man advantage and 2-for-29 on the season. I thought their special teams outworked our special teams and with that they were rewarded.
They out-special teamed the heck out of us.
With Volkening pulled late in the third, the Falcons were able to cut the Lakers lead back down to a goal, as Matt Charbonneau, fighting around the net, was able to knock one past Zapolski. Zapolski, filling in for injured goaltender Matt Lundin, finished the night with 34 saves.
We brought Ryan Zapolski here to be the understudy to Matt Lundin and hes been solid as a rock, said Lakers head coach Rick Gotkin. The real silver lining in Matt getting hurt ” if there is one ” is we really sped up Ryan Zapolskis development and hes been great.
However, the rally fell short as Toomey got a short-handed empty-net goal with 22 seconds left.
On paper, there isnt a team in the league that doesnt have the ability to knock off another team. I dont care who was picked tenth and who was picked first, said Serratore. I dont think there are any terrible teams in our league and I dont think there are any great teams in our league and thats going to make for an interesting situation each and every night.
Despite Serratores assertion that there are no great teams in Atlantic Hockey, Gotkin knows his team will have to act like one to earn the sweep tomorrow night.
Were going to have to play great and if we play great I think well have a chance, he said.
The two teams face each other again tomorrow night at Cadet Ice Arena, with the puck dropping at 7:05pm MST.