Zapolski leads men's hockey to conference lead

The Mercyhurst College men’s hockey team tacked on three points via a win and a tie to move to a conference record of 9-5-2, good enough to tie for first place with the Air Force Academy Falcons.

Mercyhurst and Air Force each have 20 points heading into the second half of the season.

The Lakers can attribute their recent success to junior goaltender Ryan Zapolski. He has a 2.47 goals against average and a .925 save percentage for the season.

Over the weekend, Zapolski saved 85 shots from the Falcons and only allowed four goals.

He credits his success so far with the play of his teammates.

“The team has been doing a great job at limiting the other team’s scoring chances lately, and we’ve been scoring a lot of goals, which takes some pressure off of the defense,” Zapolski said.

Mercyhurst took a six-game winning streak into Colorado Springs, Colo., to take on the Falcons.

The first night, the teams split at 3-3, each earning a point. The Lakers rallied from a two-goal deficit, with junior Mike Gurtler and sophomore Derek Elliot scoring to erase the Falcons’ early 2-0 lead. Junior Scott Pitt added another to give Mercyhurst the lead, but Air Force struck back and scored one of their own, giving the game its 3-3 final score.

Ryan Zapolski faced 52 shots in the game, blocking 49.
The Lakers and Falcons faced off again Saturday, with Mercyhurst walking away with a 3-1 victory over Air Force. Juniors Brandon Coccimiglio and Steve Cameron scored the first two Laker goals, with Derek Elliot adding a late score in the third period.

Air Force only managed to score one, and Mercyhurst earned the two points necessary to tie the Falcons for first place.

This weekend’s wins have proven to be the type of hockey the Lakers have been trying to play, with new offensive sparks and a steady defense.

Conference rivals Air Force and Rochester Institute of Technology are proving to be the main contenders, along with Mercyhurst, to capture the conference title.

“We just need to remain confident in ourselves, stay focused and keep working hard every day…if we do that then hopefully we can get another shot at a (conference)championship,” Zapolski said.

Mercyhurst has the next few weeks off before heading to Burlington, Vt., for the Catamount Cup tournament on Jan. 2, where they first face off against 12th-ranked Minnesota-Duluth University.