March 14, 2004
WEST POINT, NY - The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team advanced to the Atlantic Hockey Championship after defeating Mercyhurst for the fourth time this season 3-2. Pierre-Luc O'Brien scored two goals in the game, including the shorthanded game-winner in the second period.
The Pioneer will meet regular season league champion Holy Cross in the inaugural Atlantic Hockey title game.
The two team battled from the opening period face off and Pioneers junior goaltender Kevin LaPointe (Quebec, QC) was tested early. He came up with two big saves with the Lakers on the power play as he stopped initial shot and slid across the crease to stop the rebound at the 7:00 mark of the opening period.
Sacred Heart took the lead at 14:22 of the first period when freshman Pierre-Luc O'Brien (Nicolet, QC) made blasted a shot through the pads of Mercyhurst goaltender Jordan Wakefield. Freshman Kalen Wright (Candle Lake, SK) and freshman Peter Ferraro (Pleasantville, NY) assisted on O'Brien's 13th goal of the season. It was the first assist of Ferraro's collegiate career.
SHU came out firing to start the second frame and forced Wakefield to made two early point blank saves on sophomores Andrew Billinghurst (Fort Collins, CO) and Chris Connerty (Raynham, MA) . Mercyhurst tied the game just 2:55 into the second period on a goal from Kyle Gourgon as he scored on the breakaway. There was some controversy as LaPointe made the initial save and was run into by Gourgon and knocked into the net. The officials ruled that the puck went in with LaPointe an the game was tied at 1-1.
Just after the Lakers goal junior Garrett Larson (Rycroft, AB) riffled a shot off right post as it beat Wakefield to the glove side and bounced out to the neutral zone.
Moments later senior Konn Hawkes (Watrous, SK) answered for the Pioneers as he took a pass in the slot from Larson and put the wrist shot over Wakefield's shoulder to make it 2-1 Sacred Heart.
The Lakers countered just 1:38 later as Erik Johnson broke in shorthanded and tied the game back up at 2-2. The goal was scored after David Wrigley was called for a five-minute major for high sticking. SHU was unable to convert on the extended power play.
The Pioneers found themselves a man down with five minutes remaining in the middle frame and once again LaPointe came up with two stellar saves in the closing seconds of the man advantage
Off the ensuing face off SHU was able to clear the puck down the ice where O'Brien gained control of the puck behind the Mecyhurst net where he hesitated after moving in front of Wakefield and waited for him to commit before netting his second goal of the contest.
In the final period the Lakers pressured Sacred Heart as they attempted to tie the game, but LaPointe and the Pioneers defense as a whole stood tall and put Mercyhurst away and advanced to the conference championship for the first time in school history.
LaPointe finished the night with 22 saves in recording his 13th win on the season while Wakefield made 27 saves in taking the loss.
The Atlantic Hockey Championship Game will be held this coming Saturday, March 20th, at 7:00 pm from Tate Rink at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY.