Fairview native Eric Rex has always felt at home in Mercyhurst Ice Center.
But that feeling has rubbed off on the rest of the Canisius College hockey team.
The Golden Griffins extended their win streak at MIC to five straight games with a 5-2 Atlantic Hockey Association win against Mercyhurst in front of 793 Tuesday night. “It’s exciting every time I come here,” said Rex, a senior forward who had a goal and assist. “It’s even better when we leave with a win.”
Canisius won five of six meetings with the Lakers last season, including all four in Erie. The Golden Griffins’ final two wins – in the AHA Tournament quarterfinals – ended the Lakers’ season.
Both teams are evenly matched, Rex said. Their styles are similar, too. Yet Canisius (2-1-0, 1-0-0 AHA) has enjoyed the upper hand. “It comes down to who wants it more in the end,” Rex said.
Lakers coach Rick Gotkin praised his team’s effort. The Lakers (0-3-1, 0-1-0) held two of the nation’s top offensive performers – seniors Cory Conacher and Vincent Scarsella – to a combined one point and the Golden Griffins’ normally dangerous power play to an 0-for-6 outing.
“We had too many mental lapses,” Gotkin said. Rex’s line capitalized on the Lakers’ miscues.
Rex and freshmen Ryan Bohrer and Kyle Gibbons combined for three goals and five points in their first game as linemates. Gibbons recorded the first two goals and three points of his collegiate career.
Gibbons turned an errant pass in the Lakers’ zone into a momentum-changing goal 9 minutes, 16 seconds into the opening period. That goal tied the score at 1 seven minutes after Lakers senior Ryan Raven opened the scoring with a short-handed goal.
“I feel like we clicked well,” Gibbons said. “Hopefully we’ll stay together and do well in the future.”
Gibbons scored again late in the second, with Rex earning an assist, 28 seconds after Matt Zuke snapped the 1-1 tie. Mercyhurst moved within 3-2 on freshman Taylor Holstrom’s power-play goal 4:25 into the third. But Rex scored with 8:55 left to regain a two-goal lead. He has two goals and four points in three games last season. That surpasses his total from last season (two goals, two points in nine games).
“They clearly were the better team,” Gotkin said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get better.”
The Lakers are struggling mightily on offense. Since totaling four goals in a season-opening tie against then-No. 4 Michigan, they have scored five goals in the past three regular-season games.
“I don’t think we’re getting some bounces out there. Pucks aren’t going in for us right now,” senior forward Mike Gurtler said. “I think guys are pressing. We’ve got to start finding the back of the net.”
Gurtler gave credit to the Golden Griffins for their play. But the Lakers’ struggles against them begins at home – as in their dressing room. “I don’t think it’s so much their team,” he said. “It’s more our team, what goes on her with us. We need to get better.”
* News and notes: Lakers goaltender Ryan Zapolski, an Erie native, completed his five-game suspension for violating team rules. The senior goaltender should play in Sunday’s exhibition game against the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team. … Rex and Goebel were teammates with the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets, a now-defunct team from the United States Hockey League. … The Golden Griffins arrived late because of a blown bus tire. The start of the game was delayed by 10 minutes. … Brennan Serville, a defenseman in Canisius’ 2011 rookie class, appears on NHL Central Scouting’s North American players to watch list for the 2011 draft. Serville, a defenseman, plays for the Stouffville Spirit in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
VICTOR FERNANDES can be reached at 870-1716 or by e-mail.
Canisius 5, Mercyhurst 2
Canisius 1 2 2 — 5
Mercyhurst 1 0 1 — 2
1st Period — 1. Ryan Raven 2 (Jones), 2:18 (sh). 2. Canisius, Kyle Gibbons 1 (unassisted), 9:16. Penalties — Gurtler (M) boarding, :19; Carkin (M) high sticking, 4:25; Kenney (C) obstruction-hooking, 7:10; Mercyhurst, too many men (served by Coccimiglio), 16:12.
2nd Period — 3. Canisius, Matt Zuke 1 (Rauch), 14:07. 4. Canisius, Gibbons 2 (Parker, Rex), 14:35. Penalties — Noble (M) interference, :39; Bohrer (C) hooking, 4:12; Goebel (M) roughing, 14:48.
3rd Period — 5. Mercyhurst, Taylor Holstrom 2 (Cameron, Pitt), 4:25 (pp). 6. Canisius, Eric Rex 2 (Danford, Gibbons), 11:05. 7. Canisius, Scott Moser 1 (Conacher, Rauch), 18:19. Penalties — Moser (C) interference, 2:56; Conacher (C) interference, 12:14; Coccimiglio (M) hooking, 19:49.
Shots on goal — Canisius, 4-16-12—32; Mercyhurst, 10-15-12—37.
Goaltenders — Canisius, Dan Morrison 2-1-0 (27 shots, 25 saves); Mercyhurst, Jordan Tibbett 0-3-1 (32 shots, 27 saves).
Power plays — Canisius (0-6), Mercyhurst (1-4).
Referees — Steve Marofsky, Peter Feola. Linesmen — Zach Roberts, Chris Woodworth.
Attendance — 793.