NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The Merrimack Warriors scored two power-play goals and beat the seventh ranked University of Vermont Catamounts at Lawler Rink on Friday. Merrimack opened up its Hockey East schedule with the win at home and has won three consecutive games.
The Catamounts came out firing after beating Boston College 4-1 last weekend. Twenty seconds into the game, Kyle Medvec wristed the puck from beyond the left faceoff circle and beat Joe Cannata.
Three minutes later, Merrimack had an answer. The Warriors took advantage of their first rush, keeping the puck in the Catamounts zone for just over a minute. John Jamieson streaked in on a line change and picked up Kyle Stollerys rebound to tie it up. Merrimack never trailed again.
Warriors head coach Mark Dennehy was impressed with the way his team bounced back.
We were mentally tough today, Dennehy said. When things werent going well, we stuck with what we were doing, and it worked.
Jamieson played well on both sides of the puck, logging much of his ice time on the penalty kill. The Warriors denied Vermont on each of its five power-play opportunities.
We killed a lot of first period penalties, Jamieson said, and that gave us confidence going into the second.
Soon after the Warriors tied the game, Vermont had a good opportunity. Pat Bowen and Kyle Stollery found their respective ways to the penalty box to give Vermont a 5-on-3 for over a minute.
Some solid triangle defense kept Vermont off the board, and the teams skated to a 1-1 tie through one period. Vermont controlled the puck for the majority of the first twenty minutes and limited the Warriors to four shots on goal.
In the middle period, Vermont had just four shots on goal and Merrimack took control.
The Warriors grabbed their first lead of the game in the second, when Francois Ouimet scored his second goal in as many games. Ouimet took a nice pass from Bowen, broke away from a pair of Catamount defenders, and deposited the puck over Rob Madores right shoulder.
The lead lasted less than a minute though, as Vermont came back with a second period score of its own. Brayden Irwin handled the puck in front of Joe Cannata and sent it off his glove to tie the score at 2-2.
At 4:16 of the second, Merrimack got its second power play of the day. Sebastian Stlbergs hooking minor was all the Warriors needed to take another lead.
With the power play winding down, Merrimack cycled the puck one last time in the offensive zone. Bowen centered it to Kyle Bigos, who left it for Chris Barton to one-time it. Bartons game winner was his second of the year and fifth goal this season.
Bartons on and off-the-ice work as an underclassman earned him a co-captainship from his teammates.
I want to show the guys they made the right choice, the junior captain said. His work this year certainly hasnt let his teammates down.
The Warriors almost capitalized immediately after the next Vermont penalty. Stephane Da Costa laced a perfect pass through the defense, and Bowens slapper touched inside the net. The referee nullified the goal because of a crease violation, and the team would have to wait for its fourth goal of the night.
In the third period, another UVM penalty led to the fourth Merrimack goal. Patrick Cullitys shot was blocked, and after scrambling for the puck, he took it out on the nearest Warrior defender. His holding call gave Merrimack its fifth power play.
Simon Demers got his first collegiate goal after Joe Cucci scooped the puck away from the boards behind Madore and sent it straight to Demers. The Warriors ended the night 2-for-5 with the man advantage.
Dennehy believed his team set up well on special teams, especially on the power play. He said the Warriors worked the perimeter well enough to find holes in the Vermont defense.
With under two minutes left to play, Elliott Sheen launched the puck from beyond center ice and found the empty Vermont net, making it 5-2.
Dennehy credited goalie Joe Cannata with the unofficial player of the game thanks to a few of his 25 saves. Sometimes your goalie needs one big save to win the game, Dennehy said. Joe had a few of them tonight.
The victory gave Merrimack its third win in a row to open the home schedule.
Merrimack hasnt been as strong at home in recent years, but Dennehy thinks that will change.
That home jersey is going to be tough to go against, Dennehy said.
Vermont will have the rest of the weekend off, with its next game coming Friday, Oct. 30 at the University of Maine. Merrimack concludes its homestand with a Sunday matinee against the University of Connecticut Huskies. Game time is 4 p.m. Eastern.