NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — After a long night of back and forth hockey, neither team proved the better as the Merrimack College Warriors and University of Vermont Catamounts each came away with a point after ending in a disappointing 2-2 tie.
In a game dominated by defense, Merrimack junior Mike Collins tried all night to light things up in Lawler, as he took a game high six shots on goal, scoring twice. The first came late in the first at 16:55 on assists from junior Brendan Ellis and sophomore Dan Kolomatis.
“[This is] a really emerging, difficult Vermont team,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “I liked how we came out.”
Vermont and Merrimack traded highlight-reel shots all night, but simply couldn’t score for the majority of the first two periods. Just as the second period was slowing to a halt, the Catamounts took over the game, if only just for a minute. Junior Pete Massar made a nice play on the right wing in transition to score his first goal of the season, unassisted, at 14:04. Just 34 seconds later, while playing with a delayed call on their favor, Vermont sophomore Nick Luukko snuck one past Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen to take a 2-1 lead.
“We need to play a blue-collar style — not like a team full of superstars,” explained Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “We had them back on their heels a little bit, though.”
Back on their heels was an understatement, as defense reigned over this game. Merrimack defenders blocked 18 shots , many in crucial situations that jump-started a penalty kill squad that killed all three short-handed situations they saw. Mike Collins was, once again, in the middle of the action.
“I saw Collins diving head first in front of a shot,” remembered Tirronen.
Added Dennehy, “Mikey Collins had as good a weekend as he’s had since he’s been here.”
Collins was the game’s number one star after netting his second goal of the night, this one a game-tying one-timer on the power play at 13:47 of the third. Sophomores Connor Toomey and Kyle Singleton got the assists on the goal.
Collins has now scored in three straight games, with four goals overall. Asked how he felt about his terrific overall performance tonight, he simply replied, “Everyone is buying into the system.”
“We’re a work in progress,” reminded Sneddon. “We’re still learning how to win. But if they compete at that level every night, there’s going to be good things for these guys. I just tell them ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard, and instead ask what did we do better tonight?’”
Merrimack comes away from the weekend with three points, leaping into sixth place in the Hockey East standings.