Healthy and confident men's hockey team on a roll

The Mercyhurst College Lakers continued their winning ways in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, stealing a pair of games away from American International College this past weekend at the Mercyhurst Ice Center.

Since Nov. 20, Mercyhurst has not lost a game in Atlantic Hockey Conference play, posting a 9-2-1 record. The two Laker losses came from the non-Conference Catamount Cup tournament in Vermont over the holiday break, and the Lakers’ tie came against Air Force.

Several of the games have been won by multiple goal margins, as the Lakers have scored 43 times in the 12 games since their last conference loss, on Nov. 14.

Head coach Rick Gotkin pointed to the fact that one of the key components of winning games has been a return to a completely healthy lineup, with the exception of sophomore Phil Ginand, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Also a healthy boast of confidence has contributed to the recent success.

“We started to get better goaltending from Ryan Zapolski, which in turn gave the rest of our team some confidence. Then we started to win a little which gave all of our players more confidence,” Gotkin said.

Gotkin has also been instilling in the Lakers the idea of taking the season one game at a time.

“We need to take it one game at a time, and not get ahead of ourselves. We realize how competitive our league is every night, and how tough it is to win every night,” Gotkin said

Mercyhurst took its first game against AIC by a convincing score of 7-2. Junior Brandon Coccimiglio posted his second career hat trick, scoring all three of his goals in one period.

Coccimiglio’s goals, added to the game’s first tally from senior Neil Graham and a goal by freshman Paul Chiasson, gave Mercyhurst an insurmountable 5-0 lead after two periods of play.

Juniors Steve Cameron and Mike Gurtler added two goals of their own in response to two tallies by AIC, giving the match its final score of 7-2. Junior Ryan Zapolski had a solid showing between the pipes, facing 35 shots and making 33 saves.

Saturday’s game proved to be more of a challenge after Mercyhurst allowed two AIC goals in the first period. Senior Chris Risi netted one puck late in the first and cut the Laker deficit to one goal.

Four more Laker goals followed, including Risi’s second tally of the game. Senior Matt Fennell, sophomore Derek Elliot, and Chiasson all added goals to inflate the lead to 5-2. AIC responded with a late third period goal to close the distance to 5-3, the game’s final score.

The Lakers look to extend their AHC winning streak this upcoming weekend as Mercyhurst travels to Fairfield, Conn., to face the Sacred Heart University Pioneers.