College Hockey:
Cannata backstops Merrimack’s ‘hard-fought’ win at Northeastern

— Joe Cannata led Merrimack with 27 saves as the Warriors edged out Northeastern 2-1 Friday night at Matthews Arena.

The win helped the Warriors (7-3-4, 5-3-3 Hockey East) maintain their fourth-place spot in Hockey East while the Huskies (2-8-4, 2-5-3) find themselves in seventh place.

“Points are hard to come by, especially on the road,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “We’ve played well here at times and have come away empty-handed. It’s a sign of a good team to come in and scrape out two hard-fought points. Cannata has been great all year. I’ve been singing his praise to anyone who will listen, and he’s flown under the radar in this league.”

Merrimack, which outshot Northeastern 12-3 in the first period, was the first to strike with just over a minute to go in the frame. Captain Chris Barton sent a wrap-around shot past Northeastern netminder Chris Rawlings to earn his sixth goal of the season.

Northeastern made up for the offense it was lacking in the first, but it was still unable to score in the second. The Huskies closed the shots on goal gap to 20-17, and had some close calls including a shot off the post by Drew Daniels.

“I was puzzled by the first period; I don’t know what that was all about,” Huskies coach Greg Cronin said. “We didn’t have to say much as coaches, they knew when they looked at the shots. It was embarrassing. They got it together and they played hard and played smart the last two periods but it wasn’t enough.”

Despite being outshot in the period, Merrimack still managed to tack on another goal to make it a 2-0 game just 30 seconds after Northeastern’s Zak Stone was sent off the ice for elbowing.

In Huskies territory, Karl Stollery sent a slap shot from between the circles on a pass from Joe Cucci, but it was Francois Ouimet who gave the puck the necessary tap to find the back of NU’s net. The power-play goal marked Ouimet’s second of the season.

Five minutes into the third, NU cut Merrimack’s lead in half on a choppy goal from Steve Quailer. In a gritty scramble in front of Merrimack’s net, Quailer caught the puck and shoved it past Cannata as he was falling.

After reviewing the play to see if Quailer’s foot was in the crease, the referees confirmed the 2-1 score.

While the game was relatively physical for most of the game with both teams collectively giving up 10 power plays, four of those penalties were received within the last three minutes of the game; three of them being NU penalties.

Randy Guzior, Stone and Steve Silva were sent off the ice for cross-checking, roughing and slashing, respectively, and Jesse Todd picked up a roughing penalty for Merrimack as well.

The teams face off again Saturday in North Andover, Mass.

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