NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Sixty minutes of hockey was not enough Friday night at Lawler Arena, as Merrimack and Providence ended regulation in a 2-2 draw.
With two minutes remaining in the extra period, it appeared this game would end in a draw, as it well deserved to. Both teams left everything on the ice and then some.
It took a Merrimack defensive turnover for Providence senior and assistant captain Tim Schaller with 37.6 ticks left on the clock to win a rough-and-tumble, up-tempo, 3-2 game for the Friars.
“It ended up being the bounce of a puck tonight,” concluded Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, whose team had “plenty of chances,” but couldn’t come away with a point.
This one was as exciting as it could get and had the beginnings of a bitter rivalry.
“The Merrimack-Providence games seem to be pretty high-spirited and emotional,” noted Friars’ coach Nate Leaman, whose team has now won three of four against the Warriors.
Last season, Providence took down an undefeated Merrimack team, then ranked No. 1 in the country.
“We try to keep it simple,” explained Schaller. “There’s no place to re-enact this [playing at Lawler] in practice.”
Simplicity was the key to this game, as both teams battled toe-to-toe from start to finish.
The scoring opened with a Providence goal by freshman Noel Acciari at 9:28 of the first, with sophomore Drew Brown getting the assist. Just minutes later though, junior Rhett Bly would knot the score at 1 (13:59) when he caught a rebound from junior Thomas McCarthy out front and shoveled it past Providence goaltender Jon Gillies.
A chippy game turned ugly in the second though when Merrimack defender Kyle Bigos drew a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head. Brown put Providence back on top 11:43 into the second on assists from junior Steven Shamanski and sophomore Ross Mauermann.
Providence, however, would go on to commit three straight penalties with about three minutes remaining in the second period, giving Merrimack a huge opportunity with several minutes of five-on-three action.
The Warriors were unable to capitalize, though, and the period ended with Providence clinging to a lead.
“It was big, really big,” said Leaman on killing the penalties heading into the third. “Fortunately, our kill came through for us.”
Just 40 seconds into the third period though, Merrimack sophomore Connor Toomey tied the game at 2 on assists from junior Mike Collins and sophomore Kyle Singleton.
A high-octane third period was filled with dazzling saves by Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta, who Leaman called “excellent,” and several close calls by both teams.
“That’s the most consistent game we’ve had all season long,” said Dennehy. “Life is not instant gratification – you don’t just get rewarded for hard work right away and that’s what we have to know. You’ve got to put efforts like that together on a consistent basis and then you’ll be rewarded.”