There’s ways of getting your first career victory, and then there’s ways of getting your first career victory.
With under seven minutes left in the second period of their Friday game at Mercyhurst, the AIC Yellow Jackets trailed 3-1 to the host Lakers. Then ANdrew Debrincat scored with four minutes remaining to cut the lead to one into the locker room.
That goal came at a pivotal point for the Yellow Jackets. The cliche always rings true that the next goal in a two-goal game is always the most important, and being able to cut the lead to one energized a roster that had been shut out in the first period despite holding a 14-7 shot advantage.
AIC came out and leveled the game almost immediately, with Austin Orszulak cracking the goal column for the first time this year just two minutes in. Seven minutes later, Martin Mellberg gave his team a one-goal lead. With under four minutes left in the game, Mellberg’s second of the game and season gave AIC the insurance they needed for a 5-3 victory.
It was and is the first career victory for new head coach Eric Lang. That his team came from behind had to have made it all the more special, and for a coach who preached the concept of grit and fight in his team, that’s exactly what they showed.
An interesting subplot to that game was the amount of power play goals scored. Every goal except Mellberg’s insurance goal in the third came on the power play, and only Debrincat’s was a 5-on-3 situation. AIC finished 4-8 on extra man opportunities, while Mercyhurst went 3-6.
The next night, Rick Gotkin’s club evened the weekend with a four-goal first period, eventually building a 6-0 lead over halfway through the second. But again AIC wouldn’t quit, scoring two more before the end of the second and a third (in a short-handed situation) in the third. The win reasserted the Lakers as a team capable of bouncing back while continuing to ring the bell as one of the league’s offensive powers.
Mercyhurst is often referred to as one of the most talented teams in the league. AIC is often called gritty, and coaches always call them dangerous. This weekend, both teams proved as much.
Robert Morris hosted Army West Point for the first time since the Colonials knocked the Black Knights out of the Atlantic Hockey postseason in overtime last year. In that game, the teams combined for 76 shots in a 2-1 decision.
I wouldn’t call it an encore because it’s a new season, but the two teams engaged in the proverbial series of the weekend. On Friday, after the cadets took a 1-0 lead in the second period, the Colonials scored twice in eight minutes to take a 2-1 advantage. In the third, Army peppered Francis Marotte, but the rookie saved all 14 shots to give his team the victory.
The next night, Army took a 2-0 lead with goals 60 seconds apart early in the second period. They then held on in the third period, giving up one goal but watching as Parker Gahagen made 20 saves over the last 20 minutes. He finished with 35 saves as the Black Knights a) held on and b) tagged Marotte with his first defeat.
It was one of those weekends that leaves you wanting more from these two teams. Unfortunately, if we want more, we’ll need to wait for the postseason since they won’t play each other again this year.
Playing their first conference series since opening weekend, RIT looked every bit the part of the defending league champions. They hung 10 goals on Bentley in a weekend sweep, winning 4-1 on Friday and 6-3 on Saturday, capitalizing on special teams and making the Falcons pay for lagging in the power play department.
But what stuck out most this weekend was the lack of shots for the normally potent Bentley offense. The Falcons mustered only 48 shots over two nights despite seven power plays, a credit to the Tigers defensive unit. Adam Brubacher finished the weekend with a +4 rating, and his linemate Brady Norrish finished at +3. Only one player on the entire weekend – Chase Norrish – posted a negative plus/minus on either night, going -1 on Saturday.
For Mike Rotolo, it made his job easier as he continued to close in on his 30th career victory. With three wins now on the season, he has 29 on his career.