ERIE, Pa. -- It was a day for celebration for Mercyhurst men's ice hockey head coach Rick Gotkin.
On his birthday, the Lakers posted a 3-1 win over Air Force to give Gotkin his 500th career win in front of 1,059 fans. He becomes just the 23rd coach across all divisions to reach the milestone.
"It was great to get the win," Gotkin said in a postgame speech to family and friends waiting for him outside the locker room.
In the process, the Lakers halted a two-game winless streak and improved their record to 7-5-1 overall, 5-1-0 in Atlantic Hockey. Meanwhile, Air Force drops to 2-5-1, 1-2-1 AH.
Air Force scored the first goal midway through the opening stanza when Max Hartner connected at 10:33. However, Mercyhurst found the back of the net twice in the second period on just eight shots to claim a 2-1 lead heading into the final stanza. Derek Barach scored the equalizer at 8:22 (assists Philippe Drouin, Jonathan Charbonneau) while Lester Lancaster connected on the winner as the period experied at 19:31 (assists Taylor Best, Kyle Dutra).
Air Force pulled its goaltender in the third and Jack Riley ripped a shot across the ice from deep inside the Lakers territory to score the empty net goal at 18:07.
Brandon Wildung earned the win for Mercyhurst, helping to swing momentum in favor of the Lakers in the second by turning away 13 shots on goal in the frame, and 27 total.
The Lakers now hit the road for five straight games before returning to the Mercyhurst Ice Center in January 2016. First is a two-game series at Canisius, followed by another two-game tilt at Holy Cross and a game at RIT before the holiday break.