WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — After keeping 33-of-35 shots out of the net in an 8-2 win on Friday, Mercyhurst goaltender Ryan Zapolski was a brick wall on Saturday. He turned aside all 36 shots leading the Lakers to a 2-0 win over American International College at the Olympia Ice Center.
AIC goaltender Dan Ramirez was no liability, either, saving all but two of the 34 shots he faced.
“I thought Ryan Zapolski was perhaps the difference for us this whole weekend,” said Mercyhurst coach Ryan Gotkin. “But I thought the AIC goalie played very, very well.”
The game was a far different affair from Friday night’s contest, where AIC gave up five goals in the third period.
“Our guys played the full game throughout,” said AIC coach Mike Field. “It was a good game. It could have gone either way.”
Both teams had chances to strike first. Just five minutes into the frame, Mercyhurst (6-9-1, AHA 6-5-1) peppered a flurry of shots on Ramirez, but couldn’t sneak the puck over the goal line. Ten minutes later, Mike McMillan had AIC’s best opportunities of the period, with two point blank shots.
However, when the horn sounded, the teams were still squared away at 0-0.
Mercyhurst broke the scoring gridlock just minutes into the second period. Hanging out behind the net, sophomore Derek Elliott found Patrick Goebel just inside the tops of the circles. Goebel’s shot snuck through some traffic and found the back of the net at 3:03.
Mercyhurst may have held the lead, but AIC had the best drives over the next 15 minutes.
At the halfway point of the period, Mike Little snuck in alone on Zapolski. The junior netminder kicked away Little’s shot with his left pad.
Four minutes later, Rob Blanchette and Chris Campanale rushed Zapolski, but couldn’t score. Late in the period, AIC couldn’t capitalize on a two-on-one.
A late surge by Mercyhurst snuck the puck past Ramirez, but it hit the side of the net.
The third period got off to an exciting start when a Mercyhurst shot bounced past Ramirez, but was cleared out of the crease before it crossed the line.
The Lakers did double their lead at the 9:59 mark. Jeff Terminesi’s crisp cross-ice pass connected with a streaking Jesse Echternach. Echternach unleashed a laser of a slap shot to beat Ramirez to the far side.
Back and forth action ruled the remainder of the game, but neither team was able to score.
Even though the teams combined to go 0-12 on the power play, AIC’s 18 penalty minutes over the final two periods seemed to break any chance they had to develop a rhythm.
“Anytime you’re trying to claw back into a game and you’re down a man, it makes it tough,” said Field.
With the win, Mercyhurst is now over .500 in Atlantic Hockey Association play and will continue their stretch against league opponents with Connecticut next week.
“We’ve traditionally started very slowly, for whatever reason,” said Gotkin. “We gotta get ready to play a pretty good UConn team here next week at our place.”
Meanwhile, AIC (2-10-1, AHA 2-8-1) flies to Colorado next week for two games against Air Force.