The Mercyhurst men’s hockey team has obtained the program’s first-ever Atlantic Hockey Association regular season championship on Saturday night.
The Lakers needed a win or a tie at Niagara and then needed Air Force, Bentley, and Robert Morris each to lose. With a strong win over Niagara on Saturday with 4-2, Sacred Heart pulled off a weekend sweep of Bentley, defeating them 5-2 on Saturday night. Canisius doubled up Robert Morris, 6-3, and RIT edged Air Force, 3-2 in Colorado.
The Lakers finally claimed its first-ever AHA regular season championship. The Lakers won three straight regular season titles from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the MAAC Hockey League, but, until now, had never finished on top in the regular season in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
With an overall record to 18-12-6 and their conference record to 16-4-5, the Lakers look forward to taking on Robert Morris this weekend, in Erie on Friday, then traveling to Robert Morris University for the second game in the series on Saturday.
When asked how the team is doing in their season senior Dan O’Donoghue said, “I think our team is doing very well. We won our first Atlantic Hockey regular season championship in school history this past weekend which is a tremendous accomplishment and a goal that we had coming into the season.”
O’Donoghue has been a force on the team this year as the assistant captain. He is the second highest scorer on the team with a total of 35 points, 24 assists and 77 shots.
“This weekend’s series against Niagara University was very tough. Ever since I was a freshman Niagara has had a strong team and always played us well. We were fortunate to come away with 3 out of 4 points this weekend. Our guys really stepped up in key situations and were able to get a win on Saturday and salvage our tie with them on home ice Friday night,” O’Donoghue said.
Mercyhurst led 2-0 on Saturday night on goals by juniors Nardo Nagtzaam and Ryan Misiak, until Niagara tied the game at 2-2 during the third period. But, freshman Kyle Dutra scored the game-winner with 2:57 left in regulation and Nagtzaam added an empty netter to secure the Laker victory.
“Our series against Robert Morris is going to be tough. They always play us well and it is a rivalry game which makes it even more intense. We’re just going to prepare as we always do and that starts with a strong week of practice and then playing together as a team on Friday and Saturday. Same goes for the AHA tournament. Every team is capable of winning so it comes down to working hard in practice and staying focused for the games,” O’Donoghue said.
The Lakers look forward to taking on Robert Morris this weekend and proceeding to compete in the first round-Atlantic Hockey Association tournament beginning on March 7.