Mercyhurst Lakers Men’s Hockey Head Coach Rick Gotkin summed up what the Lakers’ opponent and team directly ahead of them in the Atlantic Hockey table does really well. Of the Purple Eagles he said , “they do a great job of outmanning you and surrounding pucks .. they try to win loose puck battles.” Niagara has some quality wins this year including against Notre Dame, and Canisius, and is a team with a documented history going back to the days of Carson Chubak and before of rising up to make life tough for skilled offenses. ￼
Gotkin was most proud of his team. He said “ I thought we played really hard, we got some great goaltending.Our guys played really hard for each other.”
One player that stood out tonight was Keenan Stewart. The big power forward made his sophomore debut and reminded everyone why he is a big part of the Lakers. He put up two goals and drove play for a team that was lacking his presence for most of the season. This win in Atlantic Hockey was the Lakers first since November 20. Gotkin loves his smooth skating and hockey intelligence among many other things and they were all on display tonight.
As Gotkin said “ Keenan Stewart coming back into our lineup was an instant spark for us tonight.” Stewart brings size and fluid skating to the lineup. Gotkin and the staff are happy that he has been back playing. “Tonight we said we need to find a spark and we find it.” ￼
Gotkin was honest about where his team has been. He noted that they have played well a lot, but that they have been on the “wrong side of the scoreboard.” As he said “We have struggled at times .. we have just had a hard time getting .” That adds more depth to the importance of the win tonight.
Gotkin also noted that Kyle McLellan “seems to be really seeing the puck well.”Gotkin praised his work through the last three games and he projects as the Lakers’ starter.
Gotkin took a moment to touch on what it means to get the program’s 300’th win in Atlantic Hockey. He is the first head coach in conference history to do this.
“As you know I’ve coached a long time, secondly I’ve been the benefactor of some unbelievable student athletes … I’ve been blessed with some great assistant and associate coaches. Those guys have all helped me look smarter than I am. 300 wins is great but it’s a milestone for our program. 300 wins is a program win not a Rick Gotkin win.”