ERIE, Pa. - On a night where senior forward Paul Chiasson scored his 50th career goal and his 100th career point, it was sophomore Matthew Zay and senior goaltender Max Strang who stole the show on Tuesday.
Zay had a career-high four points with a goal and three assists and Strang turned aside 30-of-32 Canisius shots as the Mercyhurst University men's hockey team scored four goals in the third period en route to a 5-2 win over Atlantic Hockey-rival Canisius College on Tuesday night at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. The Lakers improved to 12-10-1 overall and, more importantly, moved into a tie for third place in the conference standings with a 10-6-0 league mark. The Golden Griffins dropped to 9-12-5 overall and 8-7-2 in the conference.
Chiasson became the 15th player in the Division I era at Mercyhurst to register 100 career points with his goal at the 5:53 mark of the third period. The goal, which also proved to be the game-winning goal, marked the 50th goal of Chiasson's career. He is the first Laker to accomplish the milestone since Scott Pitt and Steve Cameron both reached the century mark during the 2010-11 campaign.
Zay's previous high in scoring was three points, all assists, in a 7-2 win over American International on December 8 of this season.
Mercyhurst trailed by a goal on two different occasions on Tuesday night but scored the final four goals of the contest to close out the Golden Griffins. In fact, Mercyhurst scored its four goals on just eight shots in the third period against Canisius netminder Tony Capobianco.
After a sluggish and scoreless first period that saw Canisius outshoot Mercyhurst 13-9, the Golden Griffins struck first in the second period.
With senior Grant Blakey in the penalty box, Kyle Gibbons snapped a shot, through a screen, from just inside the left point that appeared to tick off the glove of Strang and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Golden Griffin lead at the 8:23 mark. Mitch McCrank picked up the lone assist on Gibbons' 11th goal of the season.
Mercyhurst mounted some pressure late in the second period and finally capitalized at the 18:36 mark. Sophomore Daniel Bahntge was the recipient of a pass from the left wing boards by sophomore Ryan Misiak and then drilled a one-timer over the glove hand of Capobianco to knot the contest at 1-1. It was Bahntge's ninth goal of the season, but his first since scoring against the Golden Griffins on December 18. Zay picked up his first of three assists on the night on the goal, digging the puck free to Misiak, who found Bahntge in front.
The Lakers held a 14-7 shot advantage in the middle period.
Canisius would recpature a one-goal lead at the 3:35 mark of the third period. With junior Kyle Just in the Laker penalty box, former Erie Otters' prospect Ralph Cuddemi scored his second goal of the season, and second in as many games, jamming a rebound past Strang for a 2-1 advantage. Preston Shupe and Ryan Bohrer picked up the assists.
The turning point of the game came just nine seconds later.
Mercyhurst won the faceoff and sent the puck deep into the Canisius zone. An outlet pass attempt by a Golden Griffin defender was intercepted by Zay just inside the blue line. Zay walked in all alone on Capobianco and snapped a shot from between the circles past the Canisius netminder to tie the game at 2-2. It was Zay's ninth goal of the season and his second unassisted goal of the year. The sophomore has now scored a goal in five straight games and is on a seven-game point-scoring streak.
Chiasson then gave the Lakers their first lead of the night with his milestone goal at the 5:53 mark. Chiasson's linemates, Blakey and junior Daniel O'Donoghue broke in to the Canisius zone to give Mercyhurst a 3-on-2 break. Some tic-tac-toe passing inside the zone finally ended up on Chiasson's stick, who then buried the puck past Capobianco to give the hosts a lead they would never relinquish. It was Chiasson's first game-winning goal of the season and the seventh game-winner of his career.
The back-breaking goal came at the 17:13 mark. After Strang had made some huge saves during the period to keep the lead intact, Zay, who was tripped on the play, sent Misiak up the right wing boards through the neutral zone. Misiak would take advantage of the delayed penalty, finding sophomore Chris Bodo who came off the Laker bench untouched. Bodo snapped a shot past Capobianco for his team-leading 11th goal of the season, giving the Lakers a 4-2 lead.
Mercyhurst would then kill off its only successful man-down situation of the night in style. With Blakey in the box and Capobianco pulled for an extra attacker, Canisius found themselves on a 6-on-4 situation. However, a center-ice faceoff win by Zay sent O'Donoghue into the Canisius zone. The junior put the icing on the cake with his empty-net goal for the final margin of the night. It was O'Donoghue's seventh goal of the season and his third shorthanded goal of the year, which ties him for the national lead.
With his four-point night, Zay has caught Misiak for the team-lead in scoring. Both sophomores have 23 points during the campaign, both well past their freshman totals from a year ago.
Strang earned the victory by turning aside 30-of-32 Canisius shots. He is 9-5-0 overall and 8-3-0 against conference opponents. Capobianco suffered the loss with a 26-save performance. He saw his record drop to 8-12-4 on the year.
Mercyhurst went 0-for-2 on the power play. Canisius finished the night 2-for-3 with the man advantage in a game that saw just five minor penalties.
The Lakers will host the Black Knights of Army this Friday and Saturday at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. Faceoffs both nights are scheduled for 7:05 p.m.