By Mike McMahon
---- — NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Merrimack held two separate leads over defending national champion Yale but the Bulldogs potted an overtime game winner with just 45.3 seconds left on the clock to beat the Warriors, 3-2, at Ingalls Rink in front of 3,267 fans last night. The loss extended Merrimack’s winless streak to seven games, its longest in four years.
“We’re working hard but we’re not working very smart,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, who coached his 300th game behind the Warrior bench. “We were chasing the puck the whole game and weren’t forechecking with any intelligence.
The second period was probably our best period because we were attacking but, beyond that, I wasn’t happy with our play at all. I thought our forwards didn’t work hard enough and our defensemen were looking for help, trying to make plays that weren’t there and holding the puck too long. I’m sure they’re frustrated because they’re working hard, but not smart.”
Hampus Gustafsson put the Warriors ahead 1-0 in the first period, rifling a shot from the high slot past Alex Lyon. It was just the third time all season the Warriors scored the first goal of the game.
The Warriors held that lead until the 2:42 mark of the third period when Yale defenseman Gus Young pinched from the left point and shoveled a backhander past Rasmus Tirronen (31 saves) but Gustafsson potted his second of the game just nine seconds later, giving the Warriors back the one-goal lead.
Rob O’Gara then tied the score at the 12:59 mark of the third period, unleashing a wrister from the top of the right circle that beat Tirronen high, through a screen.
As the seconds ticked down in overtime, the Warriors attempted to send a breakout pass out of the defensive zone but it landed right on the stick of Yale’s Frankie DiChiara, who Tirronen stopped with the left pad on the initial shot. But Chris Izmirlian was there to deposit the rebound and give the Bulldogs the win.
The Warriors were outshot 34-15, including 29-6 combined in the first and third period as well as overtime.
“I didn’t think, when we had a chance to attack and go after them, we did so in a unified manner,” Dennehy said.
On Tirronen, he added, “He’s kicking himself on that third one but we can’t give the guy the puck in the middle of the rink. ... He’s not our problem.”
Merrimack gets back to work on Friday when the Warriors host Boston University in the first game of a weekend home-and-home series.
Yale 3, Merrimack 2 (OT)
at Ingalls Rink, Yale
Merrimack (3-9-1): 1-0-1-0–2
Yale (6-2-2): 0-0-2-1–3
First Period: 1. Hampus Gustafsson 3 (Brian Christie, Chris LeBlanc), ev, 4:21
Third Period: 2. YA Gus Young 1 (unassisted), ev, 2:32; 3. MC Hampus Gustafsson 4 (Brian Christie, Chris LeBlanc), ev, 2:41; 4. YA Rob O’Gara 2 (Mike Doherty, Kenny Agostino), ev, 12:53.
Overtime: 5. YA Chris Izmirlian 3 (Frankie DiChiara), ev, 4:15.
Shots: Merrimack 3-8-3-1–15; Yale 13-3-15-2–34
Saves: MC Tirronen 34 shots, 31 saves; YA Lyon 15 shots, 13 saves
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 2 ; Yale 0 for 4
Penalties: Merrimack 4-8; Yale 2-4
Faceoffs: 28-24 Yale
Next: Hosts Boston University Friday, 7