By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – Rob Tadazak did all he could do to keep Army in the game but Merrimack College was finally able to solve the junior goaltender in the third period, as Merrimack beat Army, 4-2, at Lawler Rink in front of a sellout crowd of 2,549 last night.
Tadazak made 39 saves on 42 shots (Mike Collins’ fourth goal was an empty-netter) to continue a stretch of stellar play against the Warriors at Lawler Rink. Last season, in a 3-2 loss for the Black Knights, Tadazak stopped 37 shots and he made 29 saves in a 2-1 Merrimack win two years ago.
“He seems to love this rink,” Army head coach Brian Riley said. “Three years in a row for us here he’s been our best player and has given us a chance to win. We’re on the road, up 2-1 entering the third period and we felt like we were in a pretty good spot. We knew that they could come at us (in the third period) and we take three penalties we have to kill, but you have to give them credit, Merrimack got a goal and it sparked them. Even when they went ahead and it was 3-2 though, we felt like we were one bounce away.”
After a 12-save first period for Tadazak, the Warriors finally found the back of the net in the second when freshman Hampus Gustafsson potted his first of the season.
“It was one of the lucky goals,” Gustafsson said. “We try to put pucks on net, there were a few shots before and I was in the right spot at the right time and I was able to bury that goal. I had a lot of opportunities, but to at least have that first goal out of the way, I don’t have to think about it as much now.”
Just over five minutes into the third period, with the Warriors trailing 2-1, senior Mike Collins netted his first of the season to tie the score before Quinn Gould carried the puck into the offensive zone three minutes later and put home the game-winner.
Collins also added an empty-netter.
“A lot of good players have empty-net goals,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, “they’re on the ice then, you can trust them. I haven’t been worried about Mike. Happy to see Hampus get one, although he could have had four tonight. Mike’s been trusting his linemates more, they’re young, and then Gould with a great play on the rush getting it to his forehand for a shot, we’ll get secondary scoring, we just need to stick with it.”
Lawler Rink fell silent with 3:16 left in the first period when first-year Army hockey operations manager Noah Strone collapsed on the bench after being struck with the puck near his arm or chest.
The game was stopped for several minutes as EMTs and trainers from Army and Merrimack rushed to the visitor’s bench at Lawler Rink as Strone slipped in and out of consciousness. He was taken from the bench on a stretcher to a nearby medical facility where he was alert and responsive, according to the sports information staff at Army.
“Strange play,” Riley said. “That puck came in hard and I thought it hit him in the arm, but we asked him and he said he was alright, then I heard a thump and he was down. He lost consciousness, came to, and lost it again. We’re all yelling and screaming at the refs and they didn’t know what we were talking about. It was pretty scary, his eyes kind of rolled up and I saw the look on our trainer’s face that I could tell it wasn’t good.”
According to an Army player who wasn’t dressed, it was Strone’s first game on the bench for the Black Knights.
No further update was provided on his condition.
Merrimack 4, Army 2
at Lawler Rink, Merrimack College
Army (0-1-0): 1-1-0–2
Merrimack (1-3-0): 0-1-3–4
First Period: 1. C.J. Reuschlein 1 (Luke Jenkins), ev, 19:13.
Second Period: 2. MC Hampus Gustafsson 1 (Mike Collins, Chris LeBlanc), pp, 2:36; 3. AR Willie Faust 1 (Maurice Alvarez, Zak Zaremba), ppg, 10:16.
Third Period: 4. MC Mike Collins 1 (Hampus Gustafsson, Matt Cronin), ev, 5:33; 5. Quinn Gould 2 (Kyle Singleton, Justin Mansfield), ev, 8:09; 6. MC Mike Collins 2 (Dan Kolomatis, Jordan Heywood), eng, 18:44.
Shots: Merrimack 12-20-11–43; Army 6-9-1–16
Saves: MC Marotta 16 shots, 14 saves; A Tadazak 42 shots, 39 saves
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 7 (12 shots); Army 1 for 4 (2 shots)
Penalties: Merrimack 4-8; Army 8-27
Faceoffs: 41-22 Merrimack
Next: Hosts Bentley Friday, 7 p.m.