The Mercyhurst College men’s hockey team has not started out with the season they expected. After sustaining early injuries, they have relied on defense and underclassmen to carry much of the load.
After an impressive tie to then ranked number four University of Michigan, the Lakers dropped their next 4 games. However, they have shown signs of life since.
Following an exhibition victory of Team USA under-18 team, they won 4 straight over divisional rivals Air Force Academy and Army, along with 20-ranked Robert Morris.
The Lakers were playing their best hockey of the year during this stretch.
However, they have had a turkey hangover, getting swept by American International College who has previously been winless against the Lakers in 10 tries.
The men’s hockey team has had its struggles. For the first five games of the year, freshman goaltender Jordan Tibbett was starting.
Tibbett played well, but was 0-3-1 over his time starting. Now starting is Senior Ryan Zapolski who has had better success with a 4-3 record.
With the help of Zapolski’s .932 save percentage and a shutout, the Lakers managed to go on their 4-game win streak.
“Ryan Zapolski has been the backbone of our defense,” said head coach Rick Gotkin of his star goalie. Only six goaltenders in the country have a better save percentage.
While defense has been solid, the offense has been anemic at best. While at the start of the year, senior captains Brandon Coccimiglio and Scott Pitt were expected to lead a fairly strong offense.
“We need to see more out of our seniors and juniors to start stepping up and scoring,” said Gotkin of the rough start for the upperclassmen.
With injuries once again taking a toll on the Lakers, freshman forwards Taylor Holstrom and Daniel O’Donoghue are leading the team in total points.
“Our team has shown some positive things, we have the ingredients to be a strong hockey team…we just need to get the things going on offense,” added Gotkin.
The Lakers are going to need every bit of those freshmen, especially since half of their remaining games are on the road.
Sitting at 4-6-1, the Lakers are hoping that the AIT sweep was only a setback.
“It was a hiccup, and when all is said and done I think we will be right in the thick of things,” Gotkin said.