May 12, 2013

Men's Division II Quarterfinal Impressions

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

James Chayka and Mercyhurst managed to subdue Lake Erie in their third matchup of the 2013 season, but the loss should be nothing but beneficial for the Storm.
© Cindy Alves

There are huge moments in every program's history, and typically they come with a lot of pain.

For Mercyhurst, it came in 2007, when a tipped shot flopped into its net with time nearly expired in the national championship game with Le Moyne, leaving the Lakers with a 6-5 loss. It was a setback that stewed for a long time around Erie, but it was the catalyst for the hard work that ultimately paid off in Merychurst's national championship in 2011.

I'm guessing Saturday's 10-9 overtime loss to Mercyhurst will be a similarly seminal moment for Lake Erie.

At five different points, including twice in the second half, Lake Erie had two goal leads against the stingy Lakers, but the Storm could never create the distance they needed from the lone undefeated team in Division II. Back came Mercyhurst, time and again, and eventually the top team in the country broke Lake Erie's heart on a shot off the stick of Brady Heseltine just over one minute into overtime.

Lake Erie got fantastic games out of rookie netminder Tom Lipomi (13 saves) and middie Reagan Harding (3g), and only turned the ball over 11 times, but when it came down to crunch time, Mercyhurst was the better team. It's astonishing that we're even having this discussion considering Lake Erie is in just its fourth year of existence.

The Storm players and coaching staff won't sleep much tonight. They'll be staring at the ceiling, recounting all of the missed opportunities they had to win this game. And tomorrow – and for pretty much the rest of the summer – this game will haunt them.

But when fall ball rolls around, the Lake Erie players will learn to embrace this loss. Just as Mercyhurst did in '07, the Storm will use this contest as a springboard to bigger things. They have a benchmark, and now they understand that they need to be a goal, a step or a couple of seconds better than what they were today. Lake Erie will get there.

And probably sooner than later.

Northern Supremacy
The North region semifinals were a showdown between the ECC and the Northeast-10, and the latter established its hegemony with victories by Le Moyne and Adelphi. Le Moyne's win was the most impressive, traveling to the Island and coming away with an overtime victory. Adelphi's triumph against NYIT was slightly more predictable, but no less important for a Panther program trying to stir the echoes of their run to the 2011 national championship game.

This is in no way a eulogy of the ECC. NYIT has a young group, led by incomparable sophomore Luke Miller – who had seven goals and two assists in the loss to Adelphi – and Post is equally callow with rookie attackmen Matty Beccaris (ECC Rookie of the Year) and Ryan Slane, along with sophomore Connor Drost (3g, 1a against Le Moyne). Throw in a rebounding Dowling team and up-and-comers like Molloy, Mercy and Chestnut Hill, and the ECC will be stacked next year. But on this year, the Northeast-10 is the premium league in the North.

Saints Go Marching
The clash between Limestone and Seton Hill did not disappoint. Some of the top players in Division II were pitted against each other, and all of them delivered the goods. Limestone's Riley Loewen scored five goals and dished out three assists and Corey Rich added four goals and a dime. James Delaney had a hat trick for Seton Hill and Matt Delmonico chipped in with a three goals and five helpers. Essentially, the game was everything we hoped it would be.

But it was Limestone who prevailed. It's easy to dismiss the Saints as some kind of freakish program located in South Carolina, but every year – this is their 14th consecutive NCAA tourney – they show up in the bracket ready to take on all comers. J.B. Clarke brings his troops up to Erie, Pa., on Saturday to face the prohibitive favorite to win both the South region and the whole enchilada. Limestone will be underdogs, and that's just fine with the Saints. There's no team with a bigger chip on their shoulder in this tournament.

Both the Le Moyne-LIU Post and Adelphi-NYIT games were paused for well over an hour because of lightning in the Long Island area. Did it make a difference? All four teams had to deal with it, so there was no advantage gained, but that kind of delay has its impact...Le Moyne will be making its third trip to Long Island in as many weekends when the Dolphins play Adelphi on Saturday. Dan Sheehan and the rest stop employees are going to be on a first-name forecast is for 63 degrees and sunny when Limestone visits Erie, Pa., on Saturday. That's about 20 degrees cooler than what the Saints like.

Le Moyne 9, LIU Post 8 (ot)
Adelphi 14, NYIT 11
Limestone 16, Seton Hill 13
Mercyhurst 10, Lake Erie 9 (ot)

Saturday's Semifinal Matchups
Le Moyne at Adelphi
Limestone at Mercyhurst

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