Tibbett lays claim to Mercyhurst’s starting goalie job with fourth playoff win

Only history stood between Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Tibbett and his second consecutive shutout on Friday night.

Tibbett allowed one goal in the Lakers’ 4-1 win over Connecticut in the Atlantic Hockey semifinal at Blue Cross Arena, a first-period dribbler by winger Trevor Gerling that was swatted clear of the Mercyhurst net the moment it crossed the goal line.

2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship

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It led to the first-ever video replay in the AHA playoffs, confirming that Tibbett had allowed his first goal since the second period of the Lakers’ 3-2 win over Holy Cross in the opening game of the quarterfinals last Friday.

“The puck jumped on his stick and made its way through my body,” Tibbett said. “They called it a goal.”

Did he think it was in?

“I think we’ll go with what the ref said,” Tibbett responded dryly.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound goaltender from Indianapolis was not beaten again. Tibbett — 4-0 in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs with four goals allowed, including a 1-0 shutout in last Sunday’s quarterfinal elimination game at Holy Cross — stopped 31 shots and held down the fort while the Lakers found their legs after a wobbly first period.

“He’s a great goaltender,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. “He’s also a great kid. … We’ve seen Jordan, the past two years, show signs of becoming the kind of goaltender that we’ve seen these last couple of weeks.”

The Huskies labeled 12 shots on Tibbett in both the first and second period, and — down 2-1 — opened the third period with a flurry at Tibbett’s doorstep. But the junior, who was chased from the pipes in the second period of Mercyhurst’s 5-4 loss at Connecticut on Jan. 18, did not bend.

Tibbett entered the game with a 6-6-1 record and a 2.40 goals against average. He has been part of an effective tandem with senior netminder Max Strang, who posted a 12-10-3 record and a .923 save percentage. Strang is 1-1 in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs this season.

“We’ve really been in a goaltending rotation,” Gotkin said. “The only time we stopped was when Jordan was hurt for a couple weeks. The rotation is something we were very excited about. It’s something we recognized going in that Max was going to graduate, win, lose or tie, but we had a guy in Jordan Tibbett that could flat-out play. We needed to develop him as well.”

The Lakers will face Canisius in the AHA championship game on Saturday. Strang faced the Golden Griffins in each of the team’s three matchups this season, posting a 2-1 record with 92 total stops.

Gotkin, however, has no intention of overthinking the situation with an NCAA tourney berth on the line.

“Clearly, at this stage of the game, Jordan has emerged,” Gotkin said. “It was easy to play him again today, and I don’t think you need to be Scotty Bowman to know he’s going to play again tomorrow.”