NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack head coach Scott Borek wasn’t in the building, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t keeping an eye on his team.
After falling behind late in the second period, the Warriors tied the game with just 54 seconds left and then received a pair of third-period goals from Liam Walsh and Max Newton to secure a 4-2 win over Sacred Heart last night at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack played its first game at home in front of fans since March of 2020.
Borek, who tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19 earlier this week, took part in a postgame Zoom with the team; he hopes to return to the bench next weekend.
“We need our best players to be our best players,” Borek said after the game when reached by phone.
After dropping the season opener to No. 11 Providence on Thursday, the Warriors came back and scored the first goal of the game at the 12:33 mark of the opening period. Regan Kimens scored his first goal of the year to give his team the lead.
Sacred Heart began to take control of the game’s momentum in the second period. Braeden Tuck scored twice, the second one with 2:01 left in the period, to give the Pioneers a lead.
“We had a lot of turnovers,” said acting Merrimack coach Bob Emery, who was filling in for Borek for a second straight game. “We had a lot of turnovers off the wall. In the second period, we had a lot of turnovers from on top of the hash marks. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games like that.
“We weren’t skating at all. Sometimes you only have to take half a stride before you make a pass, but we were standing still with the puck. When you do that, you have no other option but to pass. Then they are able to step into lanes and we didn’t take the ice. We need to do a better job of getting pucks over lines and get it deep.”
It was short-lived, however.
With Dante Fantauzzi in the box for cross-checking, Ben Brar scored on the power play which made sure the game was tied at intermission.
“That was a huge power-play goal,” Emery said. “That goal gave us momentum and we adjust in the third period.
Then in the final 20 minutes, Walsh scored what ended up as the game-winning goal just 2:01 into the final period. Newton added insurance with 10:06 left on a gorgeous feed from sophomore winger Alex Jefferies.
“We made a big adjustment after the second period,” Emery said. “In the third period we took ice that was in front of us and we weren’t going for that long pass. You need to get the puck over lines and get it in deep. Then we worked a lot of plays down low around the net.
The Warriors were playing their first home game in front of fans in 595 days. … Ivan Zivlak recorded his first career point in his collegiate debut, notching an assist on Liam Walsh’s game-winning goal in the third period. … Jake Durflinger’s assist on Regan Kimens’ goal was his first point as a Warrior after transferring from Denver in the offseason. … Max Newton had a two-point night for the Warriors. Merrimack wore their home white jerseys while Sacred Heart wore their road red sweaters.