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College Hockey:
Braithwaite Stops 22 as Merrimack Clinches Playoff Spot with Tie of Providence

Warriors to face Boston University

— “I’ve had too many Spring Breaks as it is,” senior Brandon Sadlowski said after Saturday night’s game.

He will get no such stoppage of work this time.

The Merrimack College Warriors are headed to the playoffs after their 1-1 tie with the Providence College Friars at Lawler Arena.

On Senior Night, it was a good way to end four years of regular season hockey for a class that struggled so much early in its tenure. When this senior class first came to Merrimack, the Warriors had a four-win season.

“This will be my favorite Spring Break,” senior Pat Bowen said. “I’m excited for Monday [when the team resumes practice].

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said that the playoff berth was a tribute to his seniors seeing things through. Last season, the team scored 72 goals after improving its scoring differential from the previous season. They recorded 104 in 2009-2010.

“It’s about the senior class when we came in,” Sadlowski said. “They helped bring us up well.

The game was the last to be played at Lawler this season, as the Warriors will be on the road for the rest of the 2009-2010 schedule.

Alex Beaudry had 37 saves in the game for Providence and ends the season with a 9-18-4 record, despite the conference’s second best save percentage.

Andrew Braithwaite saved 22 Friars shots on Senior Night at the rink and kept his record even at 6-6-1.

Providence got on the board first on an early power play. Mark Fayne put a shot on Braithwaite to his right, and Matt Bergland beat him with the rebound to Braithwaite’s left. His wobbly wrister gave the Friars their last lead of the season.

Adam Ross’ second goal of the year tied the game at one and capped the scoring for the night. After forcing a turnover, Ross slapped the puck from just inside the blue line while leaning backward. He beat Beaudry at 4:25 of the first.

Neither team scored after the first five minutes of the game, and with the exception of a few chances, there was plenty of neutral zone play.

Beaudry stopped Brandon Brodhag’s breakaway in the second with a decent save, and Braithwaite made a save of his own on Andy Balysky’s breakaway try in the third. Many of the biggest plays in the game were ones that don’t show up in the box score, including a Fraser Allan poke of the puck that prevented a shot in a two-on-one from point blank range.

Merrimack controlled the puck for much of the last minute in regulation, but could not find the net. Two minutes into overtime, Chris Barton set Stephane Da Costa up with a one-timer, but Beaudry made the save. Neither team had a great opportunity after that.

Dennehy said he started scoreboard watching after the second period. The other games’ scores ended up determining the matchup for Merrimack in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

Merrimack earned the sixth seed and will be paired against the Boston University Terriers, who are the third seed. The best-of-three series starts Friday night at Agganis Arena, with each game of the series to be played there.

“We’re coming into playing our best hockey right now,” Bowen said of his team’s play.

The Warriors are 6-2-2 starting with their win over Massachusetts-Lowell on Feb. 6.

The winner of the BU-Merrimack series will advance to the semifinals the following Friday at the TD Garden, with the Hockey East Championship coming the next day.

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