With conference showdowns looming at the end of February, both Mike Sisti and Rick Gotkin knew the best way to respond to pressure this past weekend, where their teams were able to add wins to their seasonal tallies.
The Laker hockey action started Friday night at a packed Mercyhurst Ice Center, where three first-period goals and five overall helped the men’s hockey team stave off a furious Canisius College Griffins comeback.
The action then raced up Interstate 90 to see women’s hockey’s Summer-Rae Dobson find an overtime winner against the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers two weeks in the making.
With the game in-hand behind them, women’s hockey’s margin is just one point shy of leading the College Hockey America conference. For the men’s squad, they are one point shy of the second seed in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) tournament, with major conference rivals Robert Morris and Air Force hosting them later this month.
Dobson’s game-winner came at 3:33 of overtime for her sixth of the campaign after teammate Vilma Tanskanen began a rush down the right side with pressure from the Tigers’ Hunter Barnett. Tanskanen sent a quick pass to Kyra Thiessen at the left point before she skated up to the left circle, where her pass went under the stick of the Tigers’ Madison Farrand and allowed Dobson a quick redirect from the right of Tiger’s goalie Terra Lanteigne to beat her.
The Lakers’ Alexa Vasko had originally forced overtime eight minutes into the third period off a draw to the right of the Tigers’ Lanteigne. Sarah Nelles sent the puck out of the right corner to Vasko at the goal line before a quick pass to Samantha Isbell to the right of the goal trapezoid, sending Vasko to a similar spot from Dobson’s later redirect and catch Lanteigne in the same area to become the second Laker (12-10-3, 9-3 CHA) this season with nine goals.
The Tigers (9-13-4, 5-7 CHA) originally had to rebound from a slow start against a Laker squad entering the game with a -11 first-period differential, doing just that on an interference call against Morgan Stacey at 11:05 of the first, allowing the Tigers’ Brittany Gout to send a saucer to teammate Jordan Marchese and slide a backhand past Sarah McDonnell (10-3-1, 2.05) for her fourth of the campaign. Three and a half minutes later, the Tigers’ Taylor Sims found Kandice Sherriff in the zone before Barnett’s initial shot was blocked but found the rebound for her seventh of the season.
Vasko preceded this sequence at 6:57 of the first to open the scoring after Laker teammate Emily Pinto drove to the net off the draw to the left of the Tigers’ Lanteigne. The shot reached the Lakers’ Emma Nuutinen back at the circle before Vasko redirected the shot off Lanteigne’s left pad into an open net.
On the men’s side of the games, four Lakers found the back of the net to open the scoring. However, a strong third period was needed to prevent the Griffins (9-15-3, 6-13-2 AHA) from escaping their position at the bottom of the AHA.
The game-winning sequence began four and a half minutes into the second period on a tripping call against the Griffins’ Tucker Weppner. This came before the Lakers’ Wes Baker found Josh Lammon for his 10th of the season a minute later, the second of four consecutive power-play goals between the squads.
The first of these power-play goals came at the 13:26 mark of the first after the Griffins’ Felix Chamberlain was booked for interference, allowing the Lakers’ offense to combine and find Dalton Hunter for his ninth of the season and chase the Griffins’ Blake Weyrick (5-9-3, 3.15), his 19 points entering Saturday’s game tied for second among Atlantic freshmen. The Lakers had opened the scoring at 8:54 of the first, with Michael Bevilacqua finding his third of the season on assists from Laker teammates Wes Baker and Geoff Kitt, then at 12:24 on James Anderson’s eighth of the campaign.
But the Lakers’ Derek Barach was booked for holding 48 seconds after Lammon’s tally, allowing Dylan McLaughlin to get the Griffins on the board, a feat he would repeat with 34 seconds left in the second on a holding call against the Lakers’ Bevilacqua. Barach’s goal, his team-leading 16th of the campaign and the only two of a 12-shot second period to beat Stefano Cantali (6-7-1, 3.33) on the way to a 40-save night, a tally just five off his season-high.
Sandwiched in between this sequence was a kneeing misconduct on the Griffins’ Nick Hutchison at 15:03, allowing Owen Norton to find his first career collegiate tally at 16:01. The Griffins would strike again with 4:01 left in the third on a 5-on-3 with both Barach and Hunter booked for respective tripping and holding calls at 14:55, the second-to-last bookings of a game featuring a combined 35 penalty minutes.
The next time women’s hockey plays will be against Syracuse University. The contests are at home for the Lakers, and will be on Feb. 8-9.
For the men’s hockey team (13-14-3, 11-9-2 AHA), the next game is a bit further out, as the Lakers have a break in their schedule this weekend. The Lakers will be traveling Feb. 15-16 to West Point, New York, to take on the academy’s hockey squad.