AMHERST, Mass. — Two Minutemen had multi-goal games and Stephen Werner scored the game-winner at 17:09 of the second period to lead Massachusetts (7-1-0, 4-1-0 Hockey East) past Merrimack 5-3 at the Mullins Center. It was the second straight win over the Warriors (2-6-1, 1-4-1 HEA) for the Minutemen, who shut Merrimack out at the Lawler Arena Friday night.
With defenseman Jeff Lang battling along the endboards in the UMass end for possession, Werner was sitting out the final few seconds of a slashing penalty. Lang finally knocked the puck loose to partner Thomas Pck, who fired a great pass from his own endline to a streaking Werner just out of the box.
Werner broke in alone, faked once, and beat Merrimack goaltender Jim Healey on the forehand to make it 4-3, enough for UMass to skate away with its third consecutive victory.
Mike Warner added a tally with 3:11 remaining in the game on a misfired slapshot that trickled past Healey, for the senior captain’s second goal of the game.
Sophomore Greg Mauldin also had a pair of goals, including a crucial game-tying netter at 13:11 of the second. With Merrimack enjoying a 3-2 lead thanks to a frenzied but well-executed rush in the middle frame, Mauldin took a feed from sophomore Chris Capraro in the slot and one-timed it into an open corner of the net to knot the game at three.
“Our guys were just getting tired,” Merrimack coach Chris Serino said. “And [UMass] had more jump. That’s because we played so much in our own end.”
After a scoreless first period, the game had much of the 3,186 in attendance looking for their pillows. That all changed 5:33 into the second period, when Warner skated past the blueline and fired a slapper that bounced off Healey and in. The goal, Warner’s second of the season, began an incredible eight minutes of action that saw the two teams trade three goals apiece. UMass scored next, when Mauldin took an unassisted tally at 6:55.
Brent Gough then lit up the Merrimack scoreboard at 8:59, when Jeff Caron’s slapshot from the point was tipped by Tony Johnson, right to the stick of Gough. He lifted it into the gaping net left open by Winer, who was playing the initial slapper. Brendon Clark took advantage of a shaken Winer just 35 seconds later, when he carried the puck into the offensive zone, and slipped it between the legs of the Stoughton native, who seemed frozen in place on the shot.
The momentum carried Merrimack into the lead when Ryan Sullivan took a feed from Gough and put it home to make it 3-2 with under eight minutes left in the second. Sullivan had also assisted on Clark’s goal, the first goal and points of his career.
The lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Mauldin added his second goal on a pretty one-timer from Capraro. Mauldin lined up in the slot and slapped Capraro’s cross-ice pass into the open corner of the net, tying the game at three.
The teams took a rest from the frenetic scoring pace for nearly four minutes, before Werner’s goal gave UMass the 4-3 lead heading into the second intermission.
“The game today seemed to be almost three different games; first period, second period, and third period,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “And they all took shape differently. The first period was about staying patient, staying with it, because I thought we played OK, not great but OK, we certainly had a lot of good chances and I thought the offense would come.
“The second period was totally different. It was all special teams.
“The third period became a game in itself, and how do you survive in the third, win the game, and forget everything that’s happened up until now.”
There were seven penalties called for a total of 14 minutes in the second period. UMass received four penalties to Merrimack’s three, and the Warriors capitalized for two of their three goals on the man-advantage. UMass had only allowed two such goals in seven games to date. Still, Serino was hoping for more from his power-play unit.
“When you press on the power play like we do, you have to move the puck, and at times we weren’t doing that,” he said.
As it was Friday night, when the Minutemen outshot Merrimack 21-12, UMass held the offensive advantage, outnumbering the Warriors 25-12 on the shot tote board.
“When you’ve got a team that’s struggling offensively, it should be throwing everything it can at the net,” Serino said. “Instead, we’re trying to make the perfect play.”
Merrimack was cornered early, when Eric Pedersen was sent off for holding, and Bryan Schmidt joined him — albeit for only two seconds — on a hitting-from-behind call. However, the Minutemen couldn’t capitalize on the 3:58 of power-play time, and it remained scoreless through the end of the first period.
Although Casey Guenther made a number of nice saves in Friday night’s 2-0 UMass win, Serino opted to start freshman Healey — his first action of the season. Healey allowed five goals on 25 shots.
UMass hosts Boston College and visits Providence next weekend, while Merrimack has a home-and-home on tap with Boston University.