NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Stephane Da Costa scored five goals for Merrimack, including three in the first period, and the Warriors held on to beat Army 6-3 on Saturday.
Da Costa scored a natural hat trick in the first period of his second collegiate game. Coach Mark Dennehy was impressed with Da Costa’s performance the game before.
“He tried forcing things a bit yesterday, but it certainly worked today,” Dennehy said.
Dennehy added that his players were expecting passes from Da Costa at any time in the game Saturday, but it was Da Costa who received the most.
“I got a lot of good passes from my teammates,” Da Costa said.
Pat Bowen and Joe Cucci each ended the night with three assists.
Da Costa said he got five goals in a game once before, while he was playing in his native country of France.
Drew Pierson’s contact to the helmet penalty gave the Warriors their first power play of the night in the first. Simon Demers passed to Bowen, whose one-timer was deflected downward by Da Costa and an Army defender. The puck saucered across the goal line at 3:36 to put Merrimack up 1-0 in a game it would never trail.
After getting assists from his teammates, Da Costa got one from a rebound after John Heffernan put a couple shots on Army goalie Jay Clark. Merrimack took a 2-0 lead two minutes after its first goal.
In what may have been his easiest goal of the night, Da Costa slapped the hat trick clincher past Clark at 13:36 after a nice feed from Pat Kimball.
The Warriors weren’t alone in scoring during their power plays. Army got a short-handed goal with two of their centers on the ice. The Black Knights forced a turnover after the first faceoff of a first period penalty kill and immediately applied pressure on goalie Andrew Braithwaite.
Army moved the puck quickly in front of the crease, as Mike Santee crossed for Mike Hull. Hull beat Braithwaite stage left for Army’s second short-handed goal in the last three games, and it cut the Merrimack lead to 3-1.
The Black Knights struck again at 18:40 of the first. With a faceoff in the Warriors defensive zone, the Army attack clicked.
After winning control of the puck, Kyle Maggard found Bryant Skarda open on the outside edge of the circle. Skarda slapped it over Braithwaite’s shoulder for the tally.
A couple early penalties led to four on four hockey in the second period.
Pierson earned his way to the box for the second time after tripping Da Costa in front of the Army bench. A minute later, Cucci’s interference penalty led to plenty of playing room for both teams. Neither club capitalized, and Army ended its night 0-for-4 on the power play.
Merrimack controlled the puck for much of the rest of the period, and Army held off the Warriors in the power play toward the end. They finished the game 4-for-7 on the penalty kill.
Francois Ouimet added a goal of his own at 18:00 of the second. Ouimet wristed the puck from beyond the left faceoff circle and caught Clark by surprise.
The Warriors aggression to open the third matched that of the first, and Da Costa’s fourth goal was the reward. 1:29 into the frame, Da Costa got his third power-play goal of the night.
While Merrimack was rushing the crease, Bowen passed over to Cucci. Cucci shot it off of Clark’s pad, and Da Costa crystallized the man advantage for a 5-2 lead.
With five minutes left in the game, Bill Day made a nice move in front of the crease, switching the puck from backhand to forehand before beating Braithwaite.
The final penalty of the game spurred its final goal as well. At 18:17, Marcel Alvarez hit a Merrimack player from behind into the boards.
One minute later, the game’ first star scored a fifth goal, becoming the first Warrior to achieve the feat since Merrimack joined Hockey East two decades ago.
Cucci dug the puck out from the boards behind Army’s net and found Da Costa to Clark’s right side. Another one-timer beat Clark to his left and closed the scoring at 6-3.
Merrimack’s next game is Friday, Oct. 23 when it opens its Hockey East schedule at home against the University of Vermont. The Warriors have another home game on Sunday, Oct. 25, when the University of Connecticut Huskies come to town.