MINNEAPOLIS — Merrimack’s power play lit up No. 10 Harvard, leading the Warriors to a 6-4 win.
Playing in front of family and friends, Merrimack’s Matt Johnson and Bryan Schmidt scored a combined six points, and Jeff Caron had four assists to lead the charge as the Warriors netted four goals with the man-advantage.
“We have to be effective on the power play to win,” said Merrimack coach Chris Serino.
Despite outshooting Merrimack, 40-19, Harvard could not overcome the Merrimack power play.
“It’s a big part of the game. Give them credit. They were able to execute on the power play and we were not. It cost us the game,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato
Matt Johnson opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:43. Caron dug the puck off the right boards and fed it back to captain Bryan Schmidt at the top of the diamond. Schmidt passed the puck to Johnson in the middle of the left circle for the one-timer, beating Harvard goaltender Justin Tobe.
Despite outshooting Merrimack 12-7 in the first, Harvard ended the period trailing 1-0 with a man in the box.
“Our goalie played well. He controlled the rebounds,” said Serino on Jim Healey’s play in net.
The Crimson’s plight worsened as Merrimack’s Scott Drewicki tipped in the Warriors’ second power-play goal of the game at 1:30 of the second. Caron’s shot came from the left point and Johnson assisted on the play. It was Johnson’s 10th point in his last nine games (1-9–10). He later added a second assist, finishing the game with three points.
Harvard continued to apply pressure throughout the second, notching its first goal of the game at 7:28 on a shot from the point by blueliner Dylan Reese.
Harvard stayed out of the penalty box for most of the second until captain Noah Welch took a high-sticking penalty at 18:31.
It took only 10 seconds for the Warriors to net their third power-play goal of the game, a tap-in by freshman forward Mike Fournier.
“We carried most of the play. They had three shots and scored two goals in the second,” said Donato.
“A lot of it falls on me. They had a couple of backdoor shots. Specialty teams are crucial,” added Tobe.
The Warriors had scored three goals on their first 10 shots, while holding Harvard to only one on 21.
The third period featured three goals by each team. The critical goal was scored by Schmidt at 10:34. It was the blueliner’s nation-leading 10th of the season and vindicated the Bloomington, Minn., native for his tough showing against the Gophers the night before.
“Now I feel better — I was real nervous last night. Minnesota is a better skating team. I grew up watching the Gophers,” said Schmidt.
Serino added, “Last night he was trying to press too hard. He is a great player. He has to let the play come to him.”
Merrimack heads to its fourth tournament of the year, the UConn Hockey Classic, on Dec. 30 against Brown, while Harvard hosts Colgate on Jan 7.