The Mercyhurst Lakers are the College Hockey America (CHA) conference’s second-best offense and defense. Despite this, the Lakers were evened and remanded by the Penn State Nittany Lions on Feb. 9-10.
The Nittany Lions, who had not seen the Lakers since early November and lost six of their previous eight contests, managed to draw with the Lakers twice. The Nittany Lions first got 24 saves from goalie Hannah Ehresmann in a 1-all draw on Friday. “They played good this weekend,” said Laker freshman Rachel Marmen. “We just need to step it up for next weekend.” They then shocked the Mercyhurst Ice Center on Saturday with a 3-3 final, keeping the game from being a Laker victory.
In equaling the national record for overtime games in a season, the Nittany Lions recorded their 10th draw of the season and kept the Lakers from continuing their rise. This allowed rival Robert Morris University to retake the sole conference lead ahead of a showdown in Erie next weekend. Prior to this past weekend, both teams were tied for the first place spot. Robert Morris is currently ranked No. 9 by a USA Hockey Magazine national poll for Divsion I hockey.
Game one saw the Nittany Lions jump out first as Meike Meilleur and Katie MacMillan found Irene Kirpolis at 7:25 and continued to play stout defense throughout the contest. In all, the two squads combined for just nine total shots on seven power-play opportunities — five of them for the Nittany Lions. This includes a combined 0-for-6 in the third period. Sutton was called for tripping at 3:17 of overtime, but Hartwick’s shot hit the post and Ehresmann made five saves.
As a result, the Lakers fell in the CHA rankings to second place in the conference race. Game two saw a big commotion started with 59 seconds left on the third-period clock. The Lakers (13-13-4, 10-3-3) answered the bell quickly and scored the first goal of the game as Brooke Hartwick found her 10th of the season at 11:13, her third-straight season with double-digit tallies. Laker momentum was strong throughout the period to the tune of Sarah McDonnell (7-7-3, 2.27) stopping all 12 Nittany strikes.
A faceoff loss by Vasko, as Summer-Rae Dobson cleaned up her missed shot just wide of Ehresmann (5-8-9, 1.92) and found Callie Paddock with 1:35 left in the first. Seventeen seconds after Nittany Lions coach Jeff Kampersal pulled Ehresmann, a hooking call was missed on Laker Alexa Vasko just outside the left post. The Nittany Lions’ Bella Sutton then found Brooke Madsen, who evaded Lakers Morgan Stacey and McDonnell. A similar sequence had ensued at the end of the second period after the Lakers’ Sarah Hine found Sam Isbell with 16.4 seconds remaining.
Hine won the second draw after the tally, but Brooke Madsen found Sutton with 1.3 seconds left, beating McDonnell just off to the left side of the five-hole. But just when it looked like the momentum would go from the Nittany Lions, a cross-check on the far side of the boards knocked Hartwick out of the contest for game misconduct. Three minutes later, Katie Rankin caught a pass from Kelsey Crow and found Natalie Heising to cut the deficit in half. Sutton then caught Heising in the slot, the second time this season the Nittany Lions (6-13-11, 3-6-7 CHA) have found an equalizer in the final two minutes of the third period.
A section of Laker fans became irate and started booing head referee Gui Bradshaw after the regulation horn, then again after a scoreless overtime. “We didn’t blame the refs (for the outcome of the game),” said Marmen. The Lakers did feel that there were areas where improvement was necessary. “We need to limit our time in the box,” said Vasko, “… so realistically, that’s killing for a whole period if you put that into perspective.”
The next opponent for the Lakers is Robert Morris, which leads in the standings heading into the showdown this weekend at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. The squads split their series at the beginning of December, Vasko getting the first game-winning tally of her career. First pitch is at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16, followed by a 2 p.m. Senior Day matinée on Saturday.