NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Behind a superb effort from goaltender Andrew Braithwaite, the Merrimack Warriors upset the No. 19 UMass Minutemen 3-1. Braithwaite survived a five-on-three power play in the final minutes of the game to preserve the win.
“(You) try not to think and try to keep the puck out of the net,” Braithwaite said. “The guys blocked some tough shots, which is always nice.”
Some swift passing early in the game allowed Merrimack to chase the puck down deep into the zone. J.C. Robitaille’s initial shot was shrugged off by Paul Dainton, but Jesse Todd had his wheels on and ripped the rebound into the twine for an early goal first period goal.
Umass tied it on a broken play six minutes later after a shot deflected off of a Warriors’ stick to Umass’s Brett Watson. Watson dished the puck off to Brian Keane, who fired it in.
UMass was hurt by taking a lot of penalties.
“There were far too many penalties tonight,” UMass Coach Don Cahoon said. “I think we did a good job on the penalty kill, but we spent too much time killing penalties.”
At 7:08 in the second period, Rob Ricci broke in alone and took a shot from the left circle. For a second it looked like a save, but Dainton only got a piece of Ricci’s slap shot, an unassisted goal that gave Merrimack the lead.
With just under two minutes to go in the game, everyone in the arena was on the edge of their seats. Umass went on a five-on-three advantage after Karl Stollery got sent off for tripping and Brandon Sadlowski for roughing at 17:10, setting the stage for Braithwaite’s heroics.
“Goaltending is our best and deepest position,” Merrimack Coach Mark Dennehy said. “Whoever we put in net can keep us in games and maybe even help us steal some. With the five-on-three, there is actually less ice to cover. It is harder to get the puck to the net. We stayed tight and made the other team work. If you take last weekend out, our penalty kill is above 90 (percent), which is pretty good.”
UMass pulled their goaltender to try to get the tying goal, but as Stollery’s penalty ended, he jumped out of the box and flew up the ice to get an empty net goal and seal the win.
“There are three components to most games: there is effort, execution and discipline,” Cahoon said. “Our effort was reasonably good, our execution was a little bit off and our discipline was horrible.”
“We played hard tonight, but I do not think that we played particularly well,” Dennehy commented. “That had a lot to do with them because they are a fast paced competent veteran team.”