NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Looking for redemption after two losses against the Warriors, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen entered Lawler Rink looking to grab a victory against No. 6 Merrimack.
The Minutemen made it close down to the final horn, but came up just short in a 2-1 loss.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy commented on the win, “We did what we needed to do. A four-point weekend is huge, and I thought we did some really good things in the first two periods.”
The Minutemen brought their skating game from the opening faceoff and used their speed very well to get into the Merrimack zone. Merrimack matched their speed and traded chances in the first few minutes during this strenuous pace.
Halfway into the first period, the Warriors were finally clicking very well with their passes while UMass still had misconnections which were piling up. UMass was also unable to win any puck battles along the boards.
“We were not getting the puck through the middle of the rink, which Merrimack does such an effective job of taking that away from you,” said UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon.
UMass goaltender Paul Dainton was very sharp from the start and had to be, as the Warriors fired pucks to the net at will and outshot the Minutemen 21-7 in the first period, with Dainton stopping 20 of them.
Merrimack took only a 1-0 lead into the first intermission when the puck bounced to Jordan Heywood during a UMass line change and he got the puck up-ice to Mike Collins on a two-on-one with Jesse Todd against Conor Allen. Collins moved toward the slot and ripped a hard wrist shot into the net blocker-side.
Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata was well-protected all period, but was great when called upon to bail out his teammates when Danny Hobbs nearly got the puck behind Cannata after a turnover.
With Eric Filiou in the penalty box for boarding, Merrimack cashed in on its first power play of the night and increased the lead to 2-0. Jesse Todd scored his 16th goal of the season, finding a wide-open side after great perimeter puck movement opened a seam down low for Jeff Velleca to slip the puck through the crease to Todd.
Dainton continued to be spectacular and kept his team within striking distance, despite Merrimack getting 14 more shots on goal in the second period.
“Dainton gave us a strong enough performance to give us a chance to hang in there and make it interesting in the end,” said Cahoon.
The Minutemen were completely out of sync offensively until three Merrimack penalties gave them a chance to attack on the power play.
However, the Minutemen were not able to get shots on goal most of the time on the power play or get enough consistent net pressure on the Merrimack netminder. Cannata was strong when needed, robbing Chase Langerrap and leading scorer Michael Pereira on the doorstep.
Merrimack continued to have the majority of puck possession in the third period until UMass saw an opening with a four-on-three power play.
UMass defenseman Joel Hanley threw the puck toward Cannata and a waiting T.J. Snyer made a perfect redirection to get the puck in the net to make the score 2-1.
With Dainton pulled for the extra attacker with 90 seconds left, Merrimack completely clogged the middle until time had expired while UMass tried desperately to move the puck to find a shooting lane .
With Boston College losing to Northeastern, Merrimack moves into second place in Hockey East.