WORCESTER, Mass. – Mercyhurst junior netminder Jordan Tibbett couldn’t have picked a better time to record his first career shutout.
Tibbett stopped 28 shots and senior Grant Blakey scored the game’s lone goal as Mercyhurst defeated Holy Cross on Sunday night at the Hart Center. The win propelled the Lakers (18-16-5) into the Atlantic Hockey Association semifinals against Connecticut (19-13-4) on March 22 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The other semifinal will pit Niagara, the AHA regular-season champion, against Canisius.
Holy Cross (20-14-3) had its season end at the hands of Mercyhurst for the second consecutive season.
Blakey scored his 13th goal of the season thanks to a centering pass from linemate Daniel Bahntge at 6:49 of the first period. Little did anyone at the Hart Center realize that would be the only lamplighter of the contest.
It proved to be Blakey’s second game-winner of the series. He scored the Game 1 winner near the midway mark of the third period. He has five game-winning goals this season.
The Crusaders were penalized five times in the game: once in the first, twice in the second and twice more on back-to-back infractions late in the third. Holy Cross pulled goalie Matt Ginn late in the game, but could not get the equalizer. Blakey put the icing on the contest by winning a faceoff deep in the Mercyhurst zone with 24 seconds left. He gently sent the puck down the ice where winger Daniel O’Donoghue reached it first and effectively killed the clock.
Both goaltenders were brilliant. Ginn (19-13-3) stopped 32 Mercyhurst shots as the Lakers held an overall 33-28 advantage. Ginn played all three games between the Holy Cross pipes.
When Tibbett, who combined with Blakey to win Friday’s first game 3-2, wasn’t standing on his head Sunday, he got great help from his defense, particularly from Nick Jones. With Tibbett out of position midway through the third, Jones protected the empty net by blocking a Brett Lubanski shot from in-close to keep the Lakers in front.
The Lakers failed on all five power-play chances, but took only one penalty themselves.
Mercyhurst and Connecticut split a pair of regular-season games at Storrs, Conn. The Lakers bowed 5-4 on Jan. 18, before rebounding for a 5-0 win the next night. Tibbett started Game 1, but left after 28 minutes with the Lakers trailing 4-0. Max Strang relieved and allowed one goal the rest of the way before pitching a shutout the next night.
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