COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Last night, Mercyhurst Lakers’ coach Rick Gotkin said that his Lakers needed to be great to be able to sweep the Air Force Academy Falcons.
While his team started off on the right track, the Falcons had a five-goal third period to earn the split, winning 6-2.
“We obviously had a complete meltdown,” said Gotkin succinctly.
Mercyhurst (1-6-1, 1-2-1 AHA) shot out of the gate to get the early lead just 52 seconds into the game when Brett Robinson slid the puck across the top of the crease to Matt Pierce on the doorstep, who tipped it past Falcons’ goaltender Andrew Volkening (16 saves).
The Lakers continued their success with the man advantage, adding to their lead just past the eight minute mark of the period. Matt Fennell one-timed a pass across the high slot from Ben Cottreau, the result of a passing play, to put his squad up by two.
Three minutes later, the Falcons (4-2, 2-2 AHA) got on the board to make it 2-1. Brent Olson won a faceoff in the left circle back to Brandon Johnson. Johnson skated down the boards, fired the puck from the hash marks and Brett Nylander knocked in the rebound past Mercyhurst netminder Ryan Zapolski (37 saves).
“We came out in the first and we were skating and hitting and making plays and then Air Force makes it 2-1 and you almost kinda felt like our guys just didn’t believe,” said Gotkin.
After a quiet second period and quiet start to the third period, the Falcons scored three unanswered goals within a 2:15 span to take a 4-2 lead. Freshman Matt Becker, filling in for an injured Josh Schaffer, started the flurry 3:38 into the period, knocking in a rebound off a Josh Frider shot for his first career tally.
“[The Falcons made] a harmless play in the corner, we turn the puck over, they make it 2-2,” said Gotkin, “The wheels fell off.”
Within the next couple of minutes, two more freshmen, Blake Page and Scott Kozlak, had scored their first career goals and Air Force had a 4-2 lead.
The swing in momentum frustrated the Lakers, as they took a flurry of penalties resulting in two consecutive five-on-three advantages for the Falcons. On the second two-man advantage, the Falcons were finally able to get their power play clicking with a Greg Flynn blast from the point, making the score 5-2.
“Due to injuries, we’re back to the old faithful and I guess that maybe works a bit better,” senior Eric Ehn said, describing the power play. “We borrowed a five-on-three power play from the Red Wings. [coach] Frank [Serratore] saw it on TV I think and got his sketchpad out.”
Ehn, a top-three Hobey Baker finalist last season, added another five-on-three insurance goal, his first of the season, with two seconds remaining in the game.
“Sometimes you don’t want to run up the score to be respectful, but when you got that monkey [on your back], you know it’d take anything; empty-netter, full-ice goal, anything.”
“This was a very, very gratifying win. I’m very proud of our guys and the young guys contributed,” said Serratore. “Theres nothing bad about tonight.”
Next weekend, both teams are on the road, the Falcons for a weekend series with the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Lakers to Michigan State for a pair of non-conference games.