Looking at the scoresheet, it didn’t look like a close hockey game, but to those inside Thom Lawler Rink Friday night, it was indeed a nail-biter as Merrimack topped Vermont 6-3.
“We weathered the storm well,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “But we let them back in the game.”
That was the story of the night for Sneddon’s Catamounts as Merrimack came out with a lightning quickness, skating circles around Vermont. Despite their efforts, the Warriors went to the locker room trailing 1-0 after a frustrating first period.
Vermont freshman goaltender Brody Hoffman was quite a presence in net, making a few incredibly quick saves.
“He was sensational,” praised Sneddon. “He kept us in there, made some unbelievable saves. He was fantastic.”
Merrimack took 29 shots, compared to only 15 by the Catamounts, but couldn’t capitalize on any opportunities. Meanwhile, Vermont freshman Jonathan Turk opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 15:03 of the first. Junior Matt White got the assist on the play.
Asked about a frustrating first, junior center Rhett Bly explained “that’s just hockey.”
In the second, Vermont came out with the intensity Merrimack had in the first, drawing lazy penalties from the Warriors. A tripping penalty 4:36 in by Merrimack sophomore Quinn Gould led to a Vermont power-play goal six minutes in. After a few more minutes of sluggish hockey though, Merrimack picked up the pace and drew two penalties from the Catamounts, being rewarded with 1:14 of a five-on-three advantage.
After taking a look at the defense and his team firing a few close shots on net, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy used his timeout for the game. His efforts were rewarded as 24 seconds later, Merrimack sophomore Connor Toomey scored his first goal of the season at 10:21 on assists from juniors Mike Collins and Brendan Ellis.
There was no turning back from that point for Merrimack, as just three minutes later, junior Rhett Bly would knot the game at 2-all on a blast straight in front of the net from freshman Matt Cronin at 13:27. The goal was the first even-strength goal of the game for either side. After a few tidy penalty kills, Merrimack freshman Vinny Scotti netted his first collegiate goal at 19:38 from Myers and Ellis, sending the Warriors into the locker room with a wave of momentum on their side.
“Vinny Scotti had some great poise to score that goal,” said Dennehy.
That was one of three goals scored by Merrimack underclassmen tonight, something important for a team with one active senior and seven active freshmen.
“We’ve got so many new guys,” said Dennehy. “I thought they played fine.”
After stealing a 3-2 lead in the second period, UVM played once again came out strong in the third as junior Chris McCarthy scored on an assist from Jacob Fallon at 5:24 to tie the game.
The game would remain tied until 15:16 when Merrimack junior captain Jordan Heywood scored on an assist from Bly and sophomore Kyle Singleton. Merrimack went on to score a five-on-three goal at 19:12 by Myers and an empty-net goal by Gould with 7.6 ticks left on the clock.
Collins finished with three assists for the Warriors.
“We want to make this a place other teams hate coming,” said Heywood. “It’s a good start.”