By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – All week, Providence College worked on one thing – pressure.
And the Friars applied plenty of it last night in a 3-2 overtime win over Merrimack College here at J. Thom Lawler Arena. It was the first time the Warriors lost an overtime game here at home since Brock Bradford and the Boston College Eagles beat the Warriors on Halloween night of 2008.
“We knew if we could get on them pretty quickly we could create turnovers,” said Providence senior Tim Schaller, who wristed the game-winning goal past Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta with 32.7 seconds remaining in the extra session. “One thing leads to another and I think that all of our goals were off turnovers.”
The game-winning goal for Schaller, who is from Merrimack, N.H., came after the Warriors were able to collect the puck in the defensive zone. Schaller was the first forechecker into the zone and he was followed closely by teammate Derek Army.
“We went into our normal forecheck which is just two men going hard and the puck squirted out,” he said. “All game I hadn’t been getting pucks to the net so I just saw the goalie go down and I figured I needed to put it on net. I went short side glove, right over his shoulder. ... (Army) was the second man in, I was the first, we both took the body and the puck came right to me.”
The Warriors (4-7-2) were able to apply some pressure themselves, especially early in the game. Merrimack held an 11-3 shot advantage late in the first period.
“We had plenty of chances,” head coach Mark Dennehy said. “They had chances, we had chances, both teams were giving up their bodies pretty consistently. We put ourselves in a situation where it was the bounce of a puck. There’s a learning curve to this though and we had some young guys play significant minutes.”
The Warriors were without defenseman Kyle Bigos for more than half the game after he was given a game misconduct and 5-minute major for a contact to the head penalty with 12:11 to go in the second period.
It was one of 17 total penalties on the night between the two teams, totaling 45 minutes.
“This is only my second season in Hockey East,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said, “but Merrimack-Providence games always seem to be high-spirited and emotional. This was another one.”
It forced the Warriors to play with, in essence, just four natural defensemen. Justin Mansfield, a sophomore, recently made the move to the blue line after playing as a forward all of last season. Mansfield, however, does have previous experience on the blue line from his high school and junior hockey days.
“He’s strong,” Dennehy said, “and he has good puck skills. When you move back, by comparison, your skills are that much improved. Plus he’s a real smart player. It hasn’t taken him long to already show some dividends.”
Dennehy hopes efforts like last night, which he thought was one of the more consistent 60-minute efforts of the season from his club, starts to pay dividends down the road.
“Life is not instant gratification,” he said.
“You don’t get rewarded for hard work right away. You need to put together an effort like that on a consistent basis, and then you’ll be rewarded. ... I thought we did a good job in the defensive zone. We won our share of battles. It was just the bounce of a puck tonight and (Providence) earned it.”
The Warriors visit the Friars tonight at 7 p.m.
Merrimack 2 (OT)
at J. Thom Lawler Arena
Providence College (6-5-1, 4-3-0): 1-1-0-1–3
Merrimack College (4-6-2, 3-3-1): 1-0-1-0–2
First Period: 1. PC Noel Acciari 3 (Drew Brown), ev, 9:28; 2. MC Rhett Bly 3 (Tom McCarthy), ev, 13:59.
Second Period: 3. PC Drew Brown 3 (Steven Shamanski, Ross Mauermann), pp, 11:43.
Third Period: 4. MC Connor Toomey 2 (Mike Collins, Kyle Singleton), pp, 0:40.
Overtime: 5. PC Tim Schaller 3 (Kyle Murphy), ev, 4:23.
Shots: Merrimack 11-10-6-0–27; Providence 5-8-11-3–27
Goalies: MC Sam Marotta (27 shots-24 saves); PC Jon Gillies (27 shots-25 saves)
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 8; Providence 1 for 7
Faceoffs: 43-40 Providence
Next: at Providence tonight, 7 p.m.