For two periods it looked as if Lincoln hockey was not only going to break their winless streak against Chelsea, but they were going to decimate the Bulldogs in the process.
At the second intermission, the Splitters headed to the locker room with a 6-2 advantage.
Then came the third period. Chelsea chipped away at the lead, but the Splitters escaped with a 7-6 win, their first ever win over the Southeastern Conference foe.
“You know, I told the guys, and I’ve told them before, anything that’s worth having is not going to be easy, it’s going to be hard, but you wont forget that,” head coach Mike Ferguson said. “They’ll never forget 7-6.”
Drew Harper’s three goals and two assists led Lincoln and Jarrett Pfeiffer added two goals and two assists.
But Pfeiffer received a 10-minute game misconduct along with a Chelsea player for jawing at each other after the whistle blew with roughly 12 minutes remaining.
With one of their stars in the box, things quickly unraveled.
“That 10 minute misconduct Jarrett took almost killed us,” Ferguson said. “We kind of scrambled up our lines after that, and it doesn’t just upset one line, it threw us all off. If we had him for the last 10 minutes, I don’t think it ends up the same way.”
Chelsea scored two minutes into the game, which didn’t bode well for the Railsplitters, who were fired up for the game after receiving little respect from Chelsea’s coach over the last several years.
Still, Lincoln was clearly the dominant team early on and all the way until the third period.
“It was a frustrating that it went in, but I had already seen that we were going to carry the play,” Ferguson said.
Chelsea wouldn’t score again until late in the second, when Lincoln had established a 5-1 lead.
One of Pfeiffer’s goals came in the second period on a penalty shot, after a Chelsea defensemen covered the puck with his hand in the crease.
While Harper was hot, Ferguson said his gut told him Pfeiffer would score.
“Jarrett skated over and he had that look in his eye,” Ferguson said. “He said ‘Let me take it,’ and had just had that look in his eye. If he didn’t come over to me like that, Drew was taking it.”
The game was also one of chippiest Lincoln has seen all season, and they were clearly physically the smaller of the two teams. Still, they took at run after run at Bulldog skaters.
“This is the most physical and strongest team I’ve ever had,” Ferguson said.
With 12 minutes remaining, Lincoln was up 35-21 on shots, and the game ended 38-36 in their advantage.
Chelsea also scored a goal that was called back because the net had come loose.
David Skeans netted what would be the game winning goal and Lincoln thwarted Chelsea’s final push as the scoreboard ticked away it’s last seconds.
“The thing is I feel good about this win,” Ferguson said. “I don’t feel like there was any luck. I thought we outplayed them for two periods. They outplayed us in the third, but when you look at the whole game, we deserved to win.”
It’s Lincoln’s fourth straight win after losing their first while playing with numerous injuries.