Atlantic Hockey 2020-21

Mercyhurst Lakers Finding Offensive Balance During Winning Streak

Mercyhurst Lakers Finding Offensive Balance During Winning Streak

The Mercyhurst Lakers are living life on the edge, scoring boatloads of goals and winning games by razor-thin margins.

Jan 27, 2021 by Jacob Messing
Mercyhurst Lakers Finding Offensive Balance During Winning Streak

Earlier this season, Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin told FloHockey that the Lakers “have always been a program that could score, and we never had a problem playing last-goal wins.” Recruiting classes and upperclassmen never quite synched up to create an offense capable of grinding out that final goal for consistent wins.

Now, in a trying season across the nation due to the ongoing pandemic, the Lakers are beginning to find their path as the offense has compiled 21 goals over its past four outings for a four-game winning streak, the first such streak since 2017-18.

RELATED: Unranked But Unforgiving: The Mercyhurst Lakers Are Up To The Fight

Gotkin’s last-goal-wins mentality has shown through during the team’s four-game surge. The Lakers fell behind 1-0 less than three minutes into their opening game against Air Force. Less than three minutes into the second period, they allowed a shorthanded goal, giving the winless Falcons a two-goal lead.

It was short-lived after a Lakers goal by Jonathan Bendorf just over three minutes later to cut the lead to 2-1. Freshman Dante Sheriff and junior Michael Bevilacqua added goals to establish a 3-2 lead just over six minutes into the third. A pair of empty-net goals during a last-minute push by the Falcons cemented the Lakers’ 5-2 win.

In the second game of the series, the Falcons took an early lead again in a four-goal first period that ended with a 2-2 tie at the buzzer. The Lakers took over in the second period with a three-goal effort over a four-minute span. Each team would add another tally in the third period, resulting in a 6-3 effort in favor of the Lakers, earning their first sweep of the season and first since 2018-19.

Lakers freshman Austin Heidemann recorded a hat trick in the second game while teammate Gueorgui Feduolov finished the series with five points (1 G, 4 A).

Wins of any kind build momentum and incite confidence, which the Lakers brought into their series against an offensively potent No. 17-ranked Robert Morris team.

The Colonials were bringing in a six-game winning streak, recording at least four goals in four of those six wins. Lakers senior netminder Hank Johnson turned away 40 shots in the overtime win, stifling the Colonials offense with a 2.00 GAA and .952 SV%.

The Lakers’ freshman were the stars, as Heidemann and team leading-scorer Carson Briere each tallied a goal and an assist. Heidemann set up the overtime winner for Feduolov with 32 seconds left in the sudden death period.

After a three-day rest, the team met again to finish off the series in a barn-burning 7-5 outing. The Lakers surrendered another early goal and were trailing 2-1 entering the second period, but a four-goal barrage led to a short-lived 5-2 lead as the Colonials matched the effort with a three-goal volley of their own to finish the period with a 5-5 tie.

Feduolov had another hand in setting up the game-winning goal during the third period before adding another assist on the empty-net insurance goal with 30 seconds remaining.

The Lakers were truly playing last-goal-wins during their pair of sweeps over Air Force and Robert Morris, coming away with four wins and 12 points to thrust themselves up the Atlantic Hockey standings.

They appear to be finding that balance and consistency of classes with an offense built on promising underclassmen and experienced upperclassmen. All six of the team’s leading scorers are underclassmen, insisting the growth at Mercyhurst this season won’t be the proverbial flash in the pan.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.