LEWISTON, N.Y. — Once again, a graphic illustration of how outrageously bizarre Atlantic Hockey — and the teams in it — are transpired on Saturday evening.
Just 24 hours after getting humbled badly in its own rink, Mercyhurst played an opportunistic hockey game and earned a huge, paramount, 3-2 victory over Niagara in freezing Dwyer Arena.
“It is a good feeling,” said Mercyhurst’s Paul Chiasson, who scored the game-winning goal early in the second period. “We were a completely different team tonight. I guess that is why the Saturday games are always better for us. We learn a lesson on Friday and come back and play better than before.”
The Purple Eagles came into the game riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, and had bludgeoned the Lakers, 6-1, in Erie on Friday night. However, Saturday was a totally different hockey game.
The win upped the Lakers to 12-5-4 in the Atlantic Hockey Association, and gave them 28 points, one ahead of Niagara, and good enough to retake the conference lead in points.
After Chris Lochner gave the Purple Eagles a 1-0 lead at 13:15 of the first period, Mercyhurst’s Daniel O’Donoghue tied the game with just 54 seconds left in the period.
However, the Lakers seized control of the game in impressively rapid fashion.
First, Jones scored a power-play goal when he skated into the slot and banged the rebound of Tyler Shiplo’s shot past Niagara goaltender Chris Noonan to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead at 1:53 of the second period.
Just 26 seconds later, Chiasson scored the eventual game-winner when he blasted a shot past Noonan after Niagara’s Dan Weiss pinched and created a two-on-one situation.
“Their ‘D’ pinched on me and I chipped it by him,” said Chiasson, who has 11 goals this season. “I already made a mistake of passing on a two-on-one earlier, and I decided to shoot this time. I hit the right corner and it felt great. It felt nice to put the guys up by two goals.”
Niagara, which had built its winning streak with industriousness and intelligence, was collectively not very smart in this one.
Appropriately, Purple Eagles coach Dave Burkholder took a shot at his club — as well as the referees — in one fell swoop.
“The scouting report on them (Mercyhurst) is that they are skilled up front and have a great power play,” said Burkholder, whose club fell to 11-5-5 in Atlantic Hockey play and still has 27 points. “Tonight, we thought we would give them nine chances on the power play.
“It was a little tilted, nine power plays to four; you don’t see that very often. We took a lot of stick infractions that were unacceptable.”
The Lakers were one-for-nine on the power play while Niagara converted on one of its four attempts.
Ryan Murphy also scored for Niagara, while Noonan recorded 29 saves. Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Tibbett made 33 saves.
Niagara power forward Scott Arnold, who earlier in the week talked to the local media regarding his successful recovery with testicular cancer, missed his second straight game with a upper body injury. Burkholder said he is listed as day-to-day.