NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Merrimack freshman Mike Vaskivuo’s first collegiate goal may not have been the most orthodox way to score, but Warriors coach Mark Dennehy will take it anyways.
“They throw it at the net, and it goes in off a skate,” Dennehy said. “Good things happen when you put the puck in the crease, and you’re not going to beat a goalie like Joe Fallon unless you put pucks in the crease.”
Vaskivuo’s tally gave the Warriors a 1-1 tie with the 11th ranked Vermont Catamounts on Friday night at Lawler Arena.
Down 1-0, Chris Kane’s shot from the point tipped off of Vaskivuo’s skate, and hopped over the pad of Catamounts goalie to tie the score at 9:00 of the third period.
Eventually, the tally would send the game into overtime, but that didn’t stop the game’s dramatic flair. Warriors’ goalie Jimmy Healey made two back-to-back stops on an in-close Corey Carlson with 1:40 remaining in the extra frame, before emotions exploded and a small fracas ended with matching roughing double minors for Merrimack’s Ryan Sullivan and Vermont’s Colin Vock.
“That was two teams going toe-to-toe,” Dennehy said. “They hit the posts, we hits some posts. I told our guys that if they played as hard as they played at BU Saturday, good things are going to happen.”
Carlson and his Vermont teammates had a hard time figuring out Healey, who received more than his fair share of help from the goalie’s best friend. Carlson, Slavomir Tomko, and Brian Roloff all had shots ring off the crossbar and post in the second period, when the Catamount poured thirteen shots on Healey.
“Tonight, they were my friends,” Healey said. “I’ll thank them later for that.”
Roloff finally solved the posts and Healey, who stopped 41 shots on the night, at 4:40 of the third and sniped out the far-side top corner of the net, over Healey’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
Not yet satisfied, Vermont continued their offensive attempts, but an all-alone Dean Strong was stoned by Healey.
The Warriors did not take the deficit lying down and responded with Vaskivuo’s clutch goal. They continued their pressure, late into the third. With only a few minutes remaining, both sides traded chances up and down the ice, though both Healey and Fallon stood tall.
Pat Kimball had a chance to break the tie with just under two minutes remaining in the third, but his point blank shot was thwarted by Fallon’s stacked pads.
“I thought Merrimack did a great job tonight,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “They slowed the game down somewhat. We’re certainly not too pleased with how we played tonight. All in all, we’re certainly lucky that we got a point tonight.”
The point kept Vermont on the heels of Boston College in the Hockey East standings for the third playoff seed, and left the Catamounts with a 14-8-3 record (9-4-3 HEA). Merrimack inched closer to a playoff spot with the draw, and brought their record to 3-18-3 (3-13-1 HEA).
Both sides meet again tomorrow night to battle it out for a much-needed two points in North Andover at Lawler Arena. The puck drops at 7:00 P.M.