MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A full 65 minutes of hockey between Robert Morris and Mercyhurst did little to solve the matter of which Atlantic Hockey member would end up inching closer the the coveted final bye position in the conference standings.
The teams skated to a 3-3 tie in front of 1,029 fans at 84 Lumber Lumber Arena Friday night in a physically intense game that saw a two-goal Colonials’ lead evaporate and a third-period Lakers’ lead go by the wayside when junior forward Colin South put home his 12th goal of the season.
With the tie, both teams now find themselves still in contention for a first round playoff bye heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale.
“I thought that was a really good college hockey game,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “I thought both teams played real hard and deserved to win and a tie was probably fitting tonight. This is our 33rd game in and at this point, we know what we need to do to win hockey games and we need to give ourselves the best chance for a good playoff position.”
The Colonials sprinted to an early two-goal lead in the first period, the first of which came from the stick of sophomore forward Scott Jacklin on the power play at 5:31. Jacklin tipped an Andrew Blazek blast from center point past starting Lakers’ netminder Jordan Tibbet to give his team the early lead.
Then less than five minutes later, the duo of Adam Brace and Cody Wydo found a puck in transition in the neutral zone and found themselves on a two-on-one just over the blue line. Wydo threw a perfect pass to Brace, who was stationed at the left post for the easy tap in at 10:29 to double the RMU lead.
Lakers’ forward Daniel Bahntge then cut the deficit in half at 15:21 with his 13th goal of the season.
As the second frame started, the tone of the game changed as Mercyhurst took the open ice away from the Colonials and cycled the puck effectively for long stretches of the period. Mercyhurst senior forward and captain Grant Blakey tied the game just 32 seconds into the second when he put a rebound from a Matthew Zay shot past Colonials’ goaltender Eric Levine.
To keep the Lakers at arms’ length, the Colonials were able to come up with two huge penalty kills that saw junior forward Kyle Just take shot after shot from the right circle, but Levine managed to make critical saves and Colonials’ penalty killers Zach Hervato and Brace kept coming up with timely poke checks to send pucks out of the zone.
Mercyhurst then took the lead at 7:43 of the second when forward Ryan Misiak beat Levine with a low shot from the right faceoff dot for the third straight Laker tally.
But the Colonials responded in the third, finding ways to create open space in the third as the game opened up and the scoring chances came fast and furious.
Junior forward Colin South tied the game at 6:23 when he knocked home a rebound from a Jeff Jones shot on an odd-man break with Tibbet out of position. The Colonials almost gave the lead back to the Lakers in the waning minutes of regulation when Levine appeared to make a clean save on a Laker shot which then trickled behind him, but Blazek cleared the puck which was just inches from going over the goal line to keep the score knotted at three.
The last golden chance would come in overtime when Tibbet made a huge blocker save on Hervato, who was attempting to finish a two-on-one with Jones in the final minute.
“We never extended the lead at 2-0, we just kind of held on and the next thing you know, we’re trailing,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “We went into a lull in that second period and turned some pucks over. We had a really good third and had some chances to win in overtime. We only had one power play after the first period and that’s a problem.”