Behind 28 saves by Hank Johnson, Mercyhurst earns a 2-1 road upset of No. 18 Bowling Green, 2-1; St. Cloud State upsets No. 4 Denver in NCHC bubble, 4-3

Grad transfer Hank Johnson made 38 saves as Mercyhurst and junior forward Stephen Ipri (pictured), a team that finished last season last of 60 clubs in the PairWise last season, opened the 2020-21 campaign with a 2-1 upset of No. 18 Bowling Green (File photo)

The Mercyhurst Lakers, a team a season ago finished last of 60 clubs in the PairWise rankings and was tabbed tied for last by the Atlantic Hockey coaches this campaign, opened their season in style with a 2-1 road upset of No. 18 Bowling Green.

Goaltender Hank Johnson was the star for the Lakers, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced while the Mercyhurst power play was the offensive force in the game.

“We capitalized on power plays, which we did twice and we got great goaltending from Hank Johnson,” said Mercyhurst coach Rich Gotkin. “He was the difference tonight. I’m not going to apologize for that. He’s a good goaltender and a great kid.”

Johnson, a graduate transfer from Bemidji State who played just 19 games for the Beavers in three seasons, was happy to get the opportunity to carry his team.

“Often what happens you don’t get a chance and he’s been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and he made the most of it,” Gotkin said. “He made a lot of spectacular saves but he also made a lot of saves look easy.

“He’s calm and cool, a quiet, reserved guy. That’s definitely a bonus.”

Justin Cmunt got the opening goal at 4:11 of the first with the man advantage, one-timing a pass from Stephen Ipri. Cade Townend extended that advantage on a 5-on-3 power play at 1:01 of the third.

Evan Dougherty netted Bowling Green’s only goal of the night with 1:33 left, spoiling the shutout for Johnson and making the finish interesting.

The two teams will faceoff again on Sunday in Erie, Pa., at 3:00 p.m. ET.

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St. Cloud State 4, No. 4 Denver 3

If there was one team heading into the NCHC bubble that might have felt like it hadn’t received the proper welcome it is St. Cloud State.

The Huskies struggled at times a year ago after being a perennial power and were one of the NCHC’s unranked teams that entered the league’s pod in Omaha looking to change opinions.

Two games in, they seem successful.

The Huskies jumped to an early lead on a Sam Hentges goal 33 seconds after the opening faceoff, fell behind to No. 4 Denver, but rallied for a 4-3 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season and help garner some national attention.

“I think that we have to go out with the attitude that we have to earn respect,” said St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson. “Our goal is to go out game by game and then earn that respect. We go out and have some success in this pod, we want to keep it rolling.”

After grabbing that early lead, the Huskies actually fell behind, 2-1, after Carter Savoie in the first and Cole Guttman tallied 58 seconds into the middle stanza.

Falling behind by a goal didn’t break St. Cloud State. That’s a change for Larson.

“Right now, I’m really happy with that progress from our team,” said Larson. “Last year, we would’ve been thrown off our game for the next ten minutes. I think that’s a huge building block for our team this year.”

Instead, the Huskies scored the next three goals, from Kevin Fitzgerald, Spencer Meier and Walker Nolan, the final coming midway through the third.

Brett Stapley netted a goal with 4:54 left but St. Cloud State shut things down from there.

It isn’t the start for which Denver hoped. After falling in overtime to No. 1 North Dakota on Friday, the Pioneers are now 0-3.

“It’s a tough start for sure, but we’ve got to have a good mood moving forward,” said Denver’s Griffen Mendel. “There’s not excuses.”

No. 2 Boston College 9, No. 12 Providence 0

The second-ranked Eagles whitewashed No. 12 Providence for the second straight night, this time routing the Friars with nine goals from six scorers in a game Providence will want to put in the past quickly.

Nothing seemed to go wrong for Boston College, which scored just 4:25 into the first on a Matt Boldy tally, his first of two, which became the game-winner in a 9-0 victory. It was the second shutout of the weekend over the Friars for BC.

“It’s almost surreal that two teams that are so close jumps to a 9-0 disparity,” said BC coach Jerry York.

Holding that 1-0 lead and after killing the front end of a 5-on-3 penalty, captain Marc McLaughlin netted the first of three shorthanded goals for the Eagles, all while killing seven Friars power plays, on the night. It became a defining moment in a game that might not have seemed to have one.

“That’s a great momentum shift for us,” York said of the shorty. “Five-on-three, [Providence has] some really good power play guys. So not only to defend it but to score shorthanded, it was a really dynamic play.”

In addition to Boldy’s two-goal game, rookies Colby Ambrosio and Trevor Kuntar each added a pair of goals. Logan Hutsko scored a goal and added two assists.

The 36-save shutout for Spencer Knight, 17 saves coming in the third period, was his second of the weekend and extends his shutout streak to 127 minutes, 54 seconds. In 37 games played for the Eagles, Knight has earned seven career shutouts.

“It reminds me of Scott Clemmensen’s days here at BC,” York said, referring to his goaltender who led his team to four straight Frozen Four appearances from 1998-2001, including the 2001 national title.