From stunning upsets to thrilling wins, the Mercyhurst Lakers hockey team has had its fair share of memorable moments throughout its storied history. Founded in 1980, the team has cemented itself as a powerhouse in the collegiate hockey world, boasting an impressive record and numerous conference championships. But it’s the historic upsets and wins that have truly left a lasting impact on fans and players alike. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the most unforgettable moments in Mercyhurst hockey history.
The Early Years: Building a Legacy
As with any successful team, the foundation for Mercyhurst Hockey’s historic moments was built in the early years. In just their fourth season, the Lakers made their mark with a dominating 10-0 win over SUNY Brockport, the first of many historic upsets to come. Led by head coach Rick Gotkin, who has been at the helm for all 41 seasons of the team’s existence, the Lakers quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the collegiate hockey world.
In the 1990s, the Lakers dominated the CHA (College Hockey America) conference, clinching six consecutive conference titles from 1997 to 2002. Led by standout players like Craig Kowalski and Peter Rynshoven, the Lakers were a formidable opponent, sweeping their conference rivals and making an impact on the national stage.
A Historic Win Over Boston College
In the 2003–2004 season, the Lakers reached new heights with an unbelievable win over perennial powerhouse Boston College. The unranked Lakers were going up against the No. 7 team in the country, and few expected them to come out on top. But the Lakers had other plans. In a back-and-forth battle, Mercyhurst tied the game in the third period, ultimately forcing overtime. In the extra period, Brian Deane scored the game-winning goal, etching his name in the Mercyhurst history books and delivering a stunning upset to the home crowd.
The win over Boston College not only solidified the Lakers as a team to be feared, but it also gave them national recognition. The team rose to No. 6 in the national rankings and finished the season with a 20-15-4 record. It was a major milestone for Mercyhurst hockey and a moment that the team and fans will never forget.
Cinderella Story: An Unlikely Championship Run
The 2006–2007 season is one that will forever live in Mercyhurst hockey lore. The Lakers had struggled with injuries and inconsistent play and were facing an uphill battle in the Atlantic Hockey Conference playoffs. But the team rallied together and delivered one of the most unlikely championship runs in college hockey history.
Led by captain Matt Warpecha and goaltender Jordan Wakefield, the Lakers knocked off top seed Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals and then stunned Air Force in a thrilling overtime victory in the semifinals. In the championship game, the Lakers faced off against Bentley University, a team that had beaten them in all three previous matchups that season. But in a fitting end to their storybook run, the Lakers prevailed, winning the conference championship and securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. It was a true Cinderella story, and one that will forever be remembered by Mercyhurst fans.
A Return to the National Stage
After a few years of rebuilding, the Lakers once again returned to the national stage in the 2010–2011 season. Led by senior goaltender Ryan Zapolski, the Lakers won their fourth Atlantic Hockey Conference championship and made their third appearance in the NCAA tournament.
In the opening round, the Lakers faced off against the top-seeded University of North Dakota and were not expected to make much of an impact. But the Lakers had other plans. In a thrilling back-and-forth game, Zapolski made an incredible 59 saves to secure a shocking upset over powerhouse North Dakota. Although the Lakers ultimately fell in the next round to the University of Denver, their performance against North Dakota will forever go down as one of the most impressive wins in Mercyhurst hockey history.
Continued Success and Future Opportunities
In recent years, the Lakers have continued to build on their historic moments, making multiple appearances in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament in 2018. As the team looks towards the future, there is no doubt that there will be even more unforgettable moments to come for Mercyhurst hockey.
It’s easy to become consumed with the latest news and upsets in the sports world. But it’s important to take a moment and reflect on the historic moments that have shaped the teams we love. The Mercyhurst Lakers hockey team has provided fans with countless memories and will continue to do so for years to come. So let’s raise a glass to the Lakers and all the unforgettable moments they have given us.