Getting off to a fast start in athletics is always the goal for teams wanting to start the season off strong.
When a team starts off slow, sometimes it can send them into a tailspin that is unrecoverable.
This was the case for the Mercyhurst men’s hockey team who started off slow but are showing that an 0-4 start isn’t the end of the world.
“I wasn’t concerned about the 0-4 start. I would have preferred 4-0, but we played hard, which is the important part,” Coach Rick Gotkin said.
The Lakers began the 2011-12 campaign with a tough four-game road stretch. The Lakers had to travel to Alaska to face both Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Alaska Gold Rush Classic, an event where the Lakers remain winless.
After the trip, the Lakers had two weeks to prepare for their first Atlantic Hockey America conference game. The team tried to turn things around against the preseason AHA favorite Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
“We don’t have any easy games, especially in this conference,” Gotkin said. “Every game is a battle.”
Despite the 0-4 start and the match-up against the favored RIT, Gotkin and the Lakers came out with a 2-1 victory.
Leading the team in the victory was goaltender Max Strang. The senior turned away 49 of 50 shots to earn his first win of the season.
“Max has played well in every game and given us a chance to win,” Gotkin said.
The Lakers finally had their first win of the season out of the way, but their weekend wasn’t over.
The team had to turn around and travel to Ithaca, NY, to face No. 19 Cornell on Saturday night.
“Their crowd is legendary,” Gotkin said of the Big Red.
Despite a hostile crowd, the team pulled out a 5-4 victory, pushing their season record to 2-4.
“Our guys feel better about themselves, and we have to find a way to keep the confidence going up,” Gotkin said. “The wins help validate some of the hard work the guys have put in.”
Despite a fairly young team, Gotkin has received production from a number of new faces. Five of the seven goals scored over the weekend were by freshmen. That doesn’t mean junior forwards Grant Blakey, Paul Chiasson and sophomore Daniel O’Donoghue aren’t producing.
“Those three in particular do so many things that don’t show up in the stats and have been terrific leaders,” Gotkin said. “But we love the 12 freshmen we have, and they are doing great so far.”
Now that the weekend is over, Gotkin isn’t getting too excited over two victories.
“The conference win was big, and that point could be the difference in the playoffs,” Gotkin said. “The bottom line is there is a lot of hockey left.”
Hopefully, the crowd that supported the team Friday night will be there every time the Lakers take the ice at the Mercyhurst Ice Center.
“The crowd was fantastic, and I really think they made the difference against RIT,” Gotkin said.
The Lakers take on another AHA opponent Friday and Saturday against Connecticut. Both games start at 7 p.m.