ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Karl Stollery’s first career hat trick led Merrimack to a 5-3 victory over RIT in a nonconference match up Saturday night. Stollery scored a short-handed goal, a power-play goal, and an even-strength goal. He also registered an assist.
Joe Cannata had an easy night as he only faced 16 shots, turning aside 13 of them as Merrimack peppered the RIT net with 50 shots. Josh Watson made 45 saves in the losing effort.
“I thought that was as good as a 60-minute effort as we’ve had maybe all year against a team that is so good at home,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “I think we did a good job tonight of making them defend with a lot of puck possession and keeping them off their forechecking. A solid effort from top to bottom.”
“They outplayed us,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “Pick an area and they won it. They’re bigger, stronger, faster. They gave it to us pretty good. What can I say?”
After Merrimack dominated the first minute-and-a-half, RIT scored on their first opportunity at 2:02. Taylor McReynolds picked up the puck in the right slot and was left unmarked. He simply walked it to the middle, waited for the goalie to commit, and easily shot it by him.
The Warriors resumed their domination, outshooting RIT in the first, 18-3, finally evening the score at 15:53. Ellis slid a cross-slot pass to Collins on the right side. Collins fired a one-timer over Watson’s shoulder that just tucked in under the crossbar. It came out so fast, many didn’t know it went in, but the official was right there to call it immediately.
The Tigers were able to regain the lead two minutes later on just their third shot of the period while on the power play. Tyler Brenner fired a slap shot from the middle of the blue line which sailed through a sea of legs past Cannata.
Despite Merrimack outplaying RIT, yet losing after the first, the Warriors were not concerned.
“Not for one second,” Dennehy said. “One thing I know we got on this club is belief. It’s taken a long time to change the culture of this program.”
Merrimack reversed the game in the second period with three special-teams goals to take a 4-2 lead. It started with a short-handed goal and then two power-play tallies.
Karl Stollery scored the shortie on an unassisted breakaway at 9:44, deking Watson, and then going to his right to beat the goaltender.
“I guess it ends up being the turnaround point of the game,” Dennehy said, “I think at the end of the day, if we kept playing the way we were playing, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. We played a pretty solid 60 minutes.”
Stephane Da Costa put Merrimack ahead for the first time while on a four-on-three power play with a shot from the left circle at 12:05. With 23 seconds left, Stollery got his second of the night on a normal power play, knocking a rebound in.
The shots continued to be one-sided for the Warriors, 18-5 in that period.
Stollery completed his hat trick 21 seconds into the third. After Da Costa fed him on the base of the right circle, Stollery had no trouble beating Watson near side for the 5-2 lead.
“I thought he was fighting it to start the game,” Dennehy said. “They were really pressuring us. He turned one over for the first goal. But the sign of a real good defenseman is when things aren’t going great you are able to settle it down and then have an impact on the game. That’s a pretty good impact. By the end of the game, he was one of the best guys on the ice, so that says a lot about his expertise and confidence.”
RIT closed out the scoring with 1:43 left on the power play. After Brenner’s shot was saved, the rebound came straight out. Andrew Favot, racing down the slot, fired the loose puck home.
Merrimack (9-4-4, 5-4-3) resumes Hockey East play hosting Maine next Saturday.
RIT (10-8-2, 9-3-1) returns to Atlantic Hockey action with a pair of games at Army next weekend.