Erie, Pa. — The Mercyhurst Lakers ended their season with a 4-3 overtime win over the Canisius Golden Griffins Saturday night at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. Both teams battled throughout the contest, which featured 84 minutes in penalties and 83 shots on goal.
Its only fitting that it was another overtime game, Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin said. It was an interesting night for both teams and I think there was pride on the line and both teams played hard.
The Lakers jumped out to the early lead scoring two in the opening four minutes. Cody Collins and Dan Bremner skated in on a two-on-one less than 30 seconds in and Collins shot rebounded to the trailing Neil Graham in the left circle. He beat Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison at the 36-second mark.
Mercyhurst was then whistled for two straight penalties giving Canisius a five-on-three advantage for 1:10. But ten seconds into the opportunity Matt Pierce picked up the puck along the half boards in the Mercyhurst zone and skated up the ice. Despite being covered, he sent a shot from the top of the right circle that hit the top right corner of the net over Morrisons glove for the short-handed tally at the 3:29 mark.
Canisius would then get another chance on the power play at 17:25 when Phil Ginand received a five-minute major for butt-ending and a game misconduct. Canisius, though, was whistled for two consecutive minors, leaving the teams to play four-on-three for 1:23. A face-off win by the Griffins went back to Cory Conacher at the right slot and his shot beat Mercyhurst goaltender Matt Lundin for a shorthanded goal with 3.8 remaining in the first period.
The first period ended with Canisius holding an 18-11 shot advantage.
In the second, Morrison made a series of saves for Canisius from shots near the crease but one rebounded and Collins picked up the puck at the right low circle and snapped it past the freshman goaltender for the 3-1 Mercyhurst lead. Graham and Bremner assisted on the goal at 6:52.
The Griffins Carl Hudson took a pass from Dave Cianfrini on a power play mid-way through the second period and sent a shot at the net from the right point, but his attempt rang off the top of the left post. The Griffs then had another five-on-three advantage for 1:17. After some perimeter passing, the puck eventually found its way to Adam Brace at the top of the crease. He scored his fourth of the season at 9:21 of the middle period. Cory Conacher and Carl Hudson recorded assists on the power play goal.
Canisiuss Dave Kostuch forced overtime with a power play goal of his own with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Josh Heidingers pass from behind the Mercyhurst net went diagonally across the crease and hit Kostuch at the front of the net. He scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season at 18:46.
The guys just never give up, Canisius captain Peter MacDougall said. They played well tonight. We got into a little bit of penalty trouble but we also had some opportunities on the power play so the guys kind of fed off that tonight.
Kostuch once again found the puck at the front of the Lakers net in the opening seconds of overtime but Lundin made the save just before Mercyhurst collected the puck and skated the other way. Chris Risis shot from near the left half boards on the rush hit the top right corner of the net 44 seconds into overtime.
Morrison ended the game with a career-high 41 saves while Lundin stopped 35.
Gotkin was impressed with the goaltending from both sides. Their goaltending was excellent again tonight, he said. We got very good goaltending from Matt Lundin, even in overtime. The first couple of seconds in overtime David Kostuch is all alone in front and then we come right back the other way and score. If Lundin doesnt make that save obviously we are talking about Canisius win.
Canisius went two-for-nine on the power play while Mercyhurst did not convert on any of its eight opportunities, including two extended five-on-three advantages.
We had to have some huge penalty kills, Canisius head coach Dave Smith said. It was a really nice note to go into the playoffs on.
The win brings Mercyhurst to a 17-8-3 Atlantic Hockey record and they will host Army in the best-of-three series starting on March 13. Canisius drops to 12-12-4 in Atlantic Hockey and they will travel to take on the fourth-seed Bentley Falcons on March 13.