2022 Holy Cross vs Mercyhurst

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs Preview: Mercyhurst Hosts Holy Cross

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs Preview: Mercyhurst Hosts Holy Cross

Mercyhurst—which missed the six-team bye by just one point—touts a trio of sophomores who carry the Lakers’ offense.

Feb 28, 2022 by Jacob Messing
Atlantic Hockey Playoffs Preview: Mercyhurst Hosts Holy Cross

First-round matchups were still in flux up to the final games in the Atlantic Hockey regular season. They determined the Mercyhurst Lakers will host the Holy Cross Crusaders in a best-of-three opening-round.

With the conference’s top six teams earning byes, the Lakers came in with the No. 7 seed and will face the bottom-seeded No. 10 Crusaders. 

You can catch both first-round series live, right here on FloHockey, as well as the entirety of the conference tournament, where the champion will earn an automatic berth to the 16-team National Tournament.

The opening round takes place over the weekend of March 4, where the two winning programs will move on to the quarterfinals—the lowest remaining seed will face four-time consecutive conference champion No. 1 American International and the second-lowest will visit runner-up Canisius.

Mercyhurst—which missed the six-team bye by just one point—touts a trio of sophomores in Carson Briere, Austin Heidemann, and Dante Sheriff, who carry the Lakers’ offense and rank first, second, and third in team scoring, respectively.

That trio combined for four goals, 12 assists and 16 points in the team’s final eight games, leading to six victories, a 10-12-4-1 record (12-18-4 overall) and home ice, where they have gone 5-5-3. 

In four meetings this season, including early-season series in October and November, the Lakers claimed two wins, a shootout win, and lost in overtime. Both programs should expect different opponents with a near entire season since their last meeting.

Overall, the Lakers scored the second-most goals (101 goals) of all Atlantic Hockey programs this season, but also surrendered the most (120 goals).

Their strong finish to the regular season, with three shutouts in their final eight games, and coming over Army West Point, RIT, and Canisius should not be written off. The Lakers allowed just 2.0 goals per-game in their final eight, and goaltender Kyle McClellan enters the first-round series with a 2.83 GAA, .926 save percentage, and all three shutouts to his name.

But the Crusaders’ Ryan Liebold will look to put McClellan’s hot play to the test. The forward collected 27 points (10 G, 17 A) this season, finishing tied for third in Atlantic Hockey scoring. Despite his top-tier finish, the Crusaders scored the second-fewest goals among Atlantic Hockey programs this season and did not fare much better defensively—allowing the fourth-most. 

Liebold was in contention for the league scoring title entering the final week, but went scoreless in his final series of the season. The Lakers shouldn’t bank on another scoreless series for Liebold as elimination is on the line. 

The Crusaders finished the season with a 10-14-2 record (12-21-2 overall). But a sweep of Bentley to close out the regular season—two weeks after a sweep of Army—shows there is definitely some bite in the bottom-seeded team.

On paper, a 6-9-1 away record doesn’t bode well for a visiting team, but the Crusaders enter the series with a four-game road winning streak. And with seven of their past nine games decided by just one goal, the first-round clash is setting up to be must-watch hockey.

Catch the entire seasons live, right here on FloHockey, and every second of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament beginning Friday, March 4. 

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.