ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Mercyhurst rode a pair of second-period goals to defeat Connecticut 4-1 in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs Friday night at Blue Cross Arena.
Even in victory, Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said the game “was not an easy night for us.”
2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship
Follow all our coverage of the Atlantic Hockey postseason at Playoff Central
UConn came out aggressively in the first period, controlling play and took an early lead at 7:36 of the opening stanza.
“We wanted to be on the attack and be aggressive,” said UConn coach David Berard. “We knew that we had to be like that to beat them and got a nice transition play.”
Shawn Pauley sent a turnover at his own blue line quickly up ice, springing linemates Trevor Gerling and Cody Sharib on a two-on-one odd man rush into the Lakers’ zone. Gerling wristed a hard shot towards Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Tibbett that pushed through his five hole and barely trickled across the goal line.
The play triggered the first-ever video goal review in the history of the AHA as the referees affirmed the initial call made on the ice.
With the Huskies up 1-0 late in the first period, Mercyhurst killed off 1:40 of a five-on-three UConn advantage. The successful penalty kill turned momentum to Mercyhurst’s side of the ice and the Lakers built from there.
“We didn’t get anything going on that power play,” said Berard. “We lost the first draw and then we tried wrapping the puck a couple of times and it got picked off. They outworked us. Their three guys outworked our five guys. That gave them a lot of jump going into the second period.”
“The game changed when we killed the five-on-three for almost two minutes,” added Gotkin. “If that goes to 2-0 at that point, who knows? That might have been the difference in the game.”
Mercyhurst’s offense got going in the second period scoring a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead. The first goal came when Zac Frischmon intercepted a UConn clearing pass at the top of the right faceoff circle. Frischmon turned around and whipped a wrist shot past Matt Grogan at 9:15.
“We got on our heels a little bit in the second after they scored their first goal and we never really recovered,” said Berard.
The Lakers’ second goal occurred as Mercyhurst set up in the Huskies’ zone. Nick Zones launched a slap shot from the right point that bounced off UConn defender Sean Ambrosie’s skate and then was deflected into the net by Paul Chiasson at 15:59.
“We like to get a good forecheck in,” said Chiasson. “I saw we had two guys in the corner and Jonesy is a good shooter. He and I have connected many times before. I tried to get a screen, got a piece of the puck and it trickled in.”
Mercyhurst added to its lead midway through the third period with a power-play goal by Ryan Misiak. Kyle Just sent a shot down the slot that Misiak deflected at 13:19 to extend the Lakers’ lead to 3-1.
“In the third, Mercyhurst knuckled down defensively and made it really difficult to get any quality chances,” said Berard.
Berard pulled Grogan with 2:02 remaining in the game, but just eight seconds later, Chiasson scored his second goal of the game into the empty net to seal the game.
Mercyhurst, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, will face No. 7 seed Canisius in the championship game on Saturday.