Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2022

Former U.S. Olympian Ryan Zapolski returns to Mercyhurst as assistant coach

’ One of the best goaltenders in Mercyhurst men ' s hockey history, Ryan Zapolski graduated in 20 11 from the university. Ten years later, he has returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach. Zapolski played 109 games for the Lakers and had 48 wins as the netminder. After Mercyhurst, he went on to play professional hockey for 11 seasons in thre edif fe rent countries.

Baseball Coach Joe Spano inducted into Erie Metro Hall of Fame Mercyhurst Baseball Head Coach and Assistant Athletic Director Joe Spano has been inducted into the Erie Metro Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. Spano was slated to be inducted in June of 2020, but the ceremony was rescheduled for 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spano is already the winningest coach in Mercyhurst Athletics history, with a record of 681-398, despite shortened 2020 and 2021 seasons. Spano has led the Lakers to four 40-win seasons and has nine of the 10 winningest seasons in Mercyhurst history. Under his direction,

- In 2018, he became the f i rst Mercyhurst player to represent the United States in the Olympics. In the Sochi games, he played in f i ve games for the Americans and had a .904 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average. Today, Zapolski works mostly with the Mercyhurst goaltenders, but alsoservesasanexampleof a successfuMl ercyhurssttudentathlete, one of many reasons Head Coach Rick Gotkin was excited to have Zapolski join the staf f in the fall. Ryan is one of our program ' s mostdecoratedalums,havingjust completeda tremendousprofessionapl layingcareerin boththe United States and Europe,” Gotkin said. “It has been great having “ ’ Ryan around our team. He completely understands what it ' s like to ' - group grow. He is very unassuming and low key and is a great example for all of our student athletes, both on and of f t he ice. ” be a studenatthlete, and what these guys go through every day. The way he interacts with our entire team has really helped our - - ” As for Zapolski ' s take, “Coming back to Mercyhurst was something I started thinking about toward the end of my playing career,” he said. “I was lucky enough to play Division I hockey in my hometown, but being able to start my coaching career here has been a blast. I def i nitely would not have had the professional career I did without Rick (Gotkina)nd Mercyhurst. I am fortunate to have the opportunity now to help the current players as much as possible. ’

Mercyhurst has made three Division II World Series appearances in the past f iv e seasons, including being one of the f in al four teams standing in 2019. Spano also was named the Atlantic Region Coach of the Year twice. In his tenure, 14 Lakers have been drafted, including a pair of pitchers from the 2019 squad. In addition to the 14 Lakers who were drafted, f i ve

former Lakers went on to play professional baseball. Dan Altavilla remains the highest drafted Laker; he was taken 141st overall in the 2014 draft. In 2021, Altavilla pitched for the San Diego Padres. The most recent draft picks were Tyler Garbee (Cincinnati Reds) and Matt Minnick (New York Yankees), both picked in 2019. In 2021, Spano led the Lakers to a 27-15 record while earning a place in the PSAC West playof f s. In the postseason, Mercyhurst won its opening round matchup against California University of Pennsylvania, but ultimately fell to Seton Hill in the next round.


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