AMHERST, Mass. — When Merrimack coach Chris Serino was asked for a bright spot in Friday night’s game against Massachusetts, his response was short, if not all that sweet.
“Yeah, it’s over,” Serino said. “Now we get to play tomorrow night, so we don’t have to carry that through the week.”
“That” was the 8-2 drubbing the Minutemen put on the Warriors in front of 4,211 at the Mullins Center, improving UMass’ record to 5-3-0 (3-1-0 in Hockey East), and pushing Merrimack down to 2-5-0 on the season. The Warriors are winless in three Hockey East contests.
Matt Anderson’s second goal of the night was the eventual game-winner, though the scoring hardly stopped there. After Merrimack scored 14:12 into the first period, the Minutemen turned on the jets, scoring five straight goals, and then two more after a late Warrior tally.
The duo of Anderson and defenseman Marvin Degon stood out all night, as Degon added a goal of his own, as well as an assist on Anderson’s first goal.
“As we saw last weekend, it was important for us to stay humble,” Anderson said. “We got a chance to learn from our mistakes and our experiences.”
Last weekend, the Minutemen were handed a similarly lopsided 6-2 defeat by Providence at Schneider Arena on Friday, only to come back and win Saturday night. Now, the Minutemen must try to avoid the same fate they handed Providence when they travel to Merrimack’s J. Thom Lawler Arena at the Volpe Center Saturday night.
“All you have to do is go back one week, we got throttled by Providence and then came back and regrouped in our own building,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “I’m confident that our guys are aware that tomorrow is a different day, and a different game.”
Serino’s club got off to a fantastic start, and looked as though it would control the game. On a power play due to James Solon’s roughing penalty, the Warriors struck first when Matt Johnson found the puck among a scramble of bodies in front of UMass goaltender Gabe Winer’s net. He put it home for the first goal of the night, but the lead didn’t last long.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first 16 minutes,” Serino said, “and then it all went downhill, and we dug ourselves too deep a hole to get out of.”
The Minutemen waited until the 17:55 mark of the first period to answer, but saved their best for the last minutes of the frame. A three-goal spree in 78 seconds turned around the 1-0 Merrimack lead, and sent UMass to the dressing room with a 3-1 advantage.
It started when Marvin Degon took a shot from the left point that was deflected past the net. Matt Anderson got the carom and chipped it over the leg of goalie Jim Healey to tie it up with 2:05 to go.
Less than a minute later, Degon got his own red-light parade, firing a wrister through Healey’s five-hole off a great pass from freshman Matt Burto with 1:17 left. Just as public-address announcer Jack O’Neill finished announcing the names involved, Anderson added another tally with 47 seconds left, zipping a wrister from the right side slot that trickled through Healey to make it 3-1.
It was the quickest trio of goals ever scored by a Minuteman team, surpassing the mark of 2:06 set against North Adams State on Feb. 22, 1994.
The Minutemen picked up right where they left off in the second period, as P.J. Fenton managed to bang home a loose puck under a scramble of bodies in front of new Warrior goalie Casey Guenther at the 2:14 mark.
Sophomore Obi Aduba scored his first goal in a UMass uniform with 9:34 to go, firing a wrister from the low slot on an assist from Peter Trovato, and Jeff Lang punctuated the period with a long shot from the left point that was deflected in front of Guenther and slipped through to make it 6-1 with 2:24 left.
Mike Alexiou added a goal for the Warriors with 8:21 to go in the game, but by then it was no use, and the Minutemen finished off the game with goals from Stephen Werner and Solon in the final six minutes.
The Minutemen peppered the Warrior net all night, no matter who occupied it. Healey made just four saves in the seven-shot first period, and Guenther stopped 21 of 26 shots the rest of the way. For the Minutemen, Winer was solid, making 21 stops, including nine in the second period. With 3:49 remaining and the game well in hand, Cahoon opted to bring sophomore Michael Waidlich in to man the pipes. Waidlich didn’t see a single shot.
With the win, the Minutemen made Merrimack the only Hockey East team against which they hold an even .500 record. The teams are now 24-24-5 head-to-head.