Lake Superior State travels to Merrimack to revisit a long dormant history.
For the first time since the 1988 NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament Lake Superior St. will take on Merrimack College. That year was to be the start of a golden era for Laker hockey, which culminated in 3 National Titles, while it can be looked at as the high point of Warrior Hockey, DII National title and an invitation to the DI tourney. 30 years later, both teams are on a level playing field, with MC possibly holding the edge by their association in Hockey East. However the Lakers might just have the better team. The 1,948 in attendance at Merrimack’s Lawler Arena were treated to an awesome back and forth affair. The tipping point would be a penalty shot for the Lakers.
The opening period started with the Warriors feeding off of their home crowd advantage. Merrimcak would opening the scoring @ 2:48 when Jackson Bales (Gresock, McBride) was able to knock home a loose puck in front of Laker goalie Nick Kossoff. Lake St. responded to being down. Brayden Gelsinger had a scoring opportunity around the 10:23 mark when he picked up a rebound but was unable to lift the puck over a sprawling Drew Vogler in the Merrimack crease. A similar play unfolded a while later, this time on the penalty kill with defenseman Steven Ruggiero off for charging (14:57). Gelsinger was able to lift the puck past Vogler to tie to game at 1. The Warriors would get another crack on the PP as Pierre-Luc Veillette was whistled for tripping (17:27). Laine McKay (Kovacevic, Irvine) would make it 2-1 Merrimack when he tipped a low slap shot from Johnathan Kovacevic under Kossoff. The lead would be short lived as Diego Cuglietta (Nordqvist, Veillette) scored on a scrum in front of Vogler on a Laker PP. Mike Babcock was in the box for cross checking. The first would end in a 2-2 tie.
Merrimack would actually carry the play to open the period but it was Lake Superior that get things going. Simon Lööf was called for slashing (2:22) putting Lake St a man up. Cuglietta (Nordqvist, Veillette) would strike again tipping in a shot from the point, giving the Lakers their first lead of the game. With a 5 on 3 advantage Lake St. would build on their lead at 13:38 when Max Humitz (Saccoman) walked in on the left side and tucked in a snipe under the crossbar. At 16:45 Cuglietta would be called for diving, a terrible call to be honest, and Merrimack would make the Lakers pay. Sami Tavenier (Kovacevic, Comes) would slap a blast from the point past Kossoff to bring the Warriors within 1, 4-3. Merrimack was flying again after this goal. A mental lapse by the Lake St defense gave the Warriors a golden chance to tie it when the puck was knocked back over the Laker blue line behind Jacob Nordqvist. Tyler Irvine and Tyler Drevitch had just barely cleared the Lake St zone, Drevitch carried the puck in, slipped it to Irvine (Drevitch, Kovacevic) who was able to beat a back checking Gage Torrel, and put the puck past Kossoff tying it at 4-4 as the 2nd period was :14 seconds from closing out.
The final period was a fast paced action packed back and forth affair, much like the overall game. Each team would have solid scoring opportunities. Merrimack would hit the post once. Lake St would get robbed by Vogler while on the man advantage. Both teams were physical, and flying, the intensity was turned up a notch in the arena. At this point it could have ended in a 4-4 tie and both sets of fans could be happy. However a neutral zone scrum resulted in Laker Anthony Nellis splitting thru Merrimack’s Matt McArdle and Tyler Drevitch to race in on Vogler. McArdle was whistled for hooking and a penalty shot was awarded. So with 4:06 left in the game it was all on Nellis, he calmly weaved his way towards Vogler. Coming across from Vogler’s left Nellis made a move to get Vogler down and wristed the game winner over him. The play was carried by a frantic Merrimack who was basically a man up for the remainder of the game, as Lake St’s Humitz was called for slashing at 16:55. They then pulled Vogler to keep the advantage. And Laker d-man Ruggiero was whistled again for roughing. Kossoff and the Lakers were able to hold on for the 5-4 win and spoil Merrimack’s home opener.
The two teams will face off again today at Lawler Arena on the Warriors campus at 4pm.