NORTH ANDOVER – Despite outshooting UMass 41-18, Merrimack College needed to climb back from a second-period deficit to beat the Minutemen, 4-2, yesterday at Lawler Arena.
The Warriors will now face Boston College on Friday here at Lawler Arena. Merrimack sits a point back of Boston College for first place in Hockey East, meaning Friday’s game will be a showdown for first place in the league.
New Hampshire is tied with Merrimack with 24 points in second place. The Wildcats play Providence on Wednesday, but Merrimack owns the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the regular-season series.
The Warriors dominated the first 20 minutes, outshooting Massachusetts 18-3 and out-attempting 35-7. But, they had just a single goal to show for it – off the stick of Justin Mansfield – and Branden Gracel tied the score with 13.2 seconds left on a shorthanded goal.
“Having lived through it, that (shorthanded goal) did nothing to our confidence,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “We handled that letdown by looking at the positives in that period and moving on.”
The Minutemen took a 2-1 lead in the second period when Eddie Olczyk’s wrister beat Sam Marotta (16 saves), but Merrimack sophomore Quinn Gould tied the score 29 seconds later on a quick wrist shot after a cross-ice pass from Mike Collins.
The Warriors won the game in the third, after Shawn Bates sent a puck up ice and the speedy Josh Myers was able to squeeze in behind UMass defenseman Darren Rowe before sneaking a wrister over the glove of Kevin Boyle (37 saves).
“Great pass by Shawn,” Myers said. “Didn’t expect for it to hit my stick. It was a great pass, right on my stick. Clayton (Jardine) was with me on a 2-on-1 and he was a little behind and I just came in, slowed down at the last second and put it by him.”