ECC Notebook: Mercyhurst Looking to Make its Move

The Chestnut Hill men's lacrosse team is making a habit of staging upsets in 2011. Back on March 12, the Griffins downed then second-ranked Mercyhurst, 8-7, in an overtime thriller.

On Saturday, Chestnut Hill pulled off another impressive feat by posting a 14-13 victory over No. 4 Dowling. The Golden Lions entered the game at 9-2 overall and 5-2 in ECC play. Freshman Mike Melnychenko notched a career-high six goals in the victory, which marked Chestnut Hill's second win over a top-ten opponent this season. Sparked by Melnychenko and teammate Kevin Festa, the Griffins rebounded from a two-goal deficit early in the fourth quarter and scored four unanswered goals en route to the victory.

After a 4-11 inaugural season in '10, the Griffins (7-5, 3-5) are zeroing in on its first winning campaign in program history. The team will finish the regular season with tilts against Molloy and Lake Erie.

According to head coach Brian Dougherty, along with adding a talented freshman class that includes the likes of Melnychenko and midfielder Mike Landau, a major reason for his team's marked improvement this season has been the implementation of a brand new mindset.

"We are all growing up at the same time," Dougherty said. "There will be peaks and valleys, but we're having fun and working hard right now. At the end of the day, it's all about having fun and not being afraid to make mistakes."

Mercyhurst Riding High After Downing No. 1 Limestone, Set to Face NYIT in Key ECC Contest Saturday

Mercyhurst posted one of its biggest wins in recent memory by defeating then-No. 1 Limestone, 12-8, on Saturday. Buoyed by a six-goal third quarter, the Lakers stormed out to a four-goal lead heading into the final stanza before holding on for the nonleague victory.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest factors in the outcome was the outstanding play of Mercyhurst's defense, which has been exceptional this season. Limestone had entered the contest at 14-0 overall and averaging 18 goals per game, good for best in the nation. However, behind a stellar performance from goalie Zach Nash and an aggressive defense that forced 14 Limestone turnovers along with low percentage chances on net, the Lakers came away with their first win over a top-ranked team since '07.

Nash was named ECC Goalkeeper of the Week on Monday for his 12-save performance and holding Limestone to 10 goals under its season average. Meanwhile, with shutdown defenders Matt Scherer, Andrew Wagner and Peter Plaskey all at the top of their game, Mercyhurst has yet to allow more than nine goals in any game this season. The unit has also limited its last three opponents to an average of just six goals per contest.

The Mercyhurst defense will need to be on top of its game this weekend when they go up against fellow ECC rival NYIT. With both teams currently residing at 6-2 in league play and just one game back in the standings, Saturday's showdown will likely make or break one team's season. While the winner will remain in a battle for second place with Mercy, the loser will likely drop out of contention for the ECC title and a playoff spot.

With a 15-12 win over Mercy on Wednesday, C.W. Post is currently in first place in the ECC standings (14-1, 7-1) with two league games left. Mercyhurst can remain in contention for the title if they beat NYIT on Saturday and hope for a C.W. Post loss down the home stretch. A loss by C.W. Post would drop the team back with Mercyhurst with two losses in the standings.

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