North Andover, MA – It looked like the third time might be the charm for the Merrimack College Warriors as they carried a 2-1 lead into the third period against the defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The previous two meetings this season were both decided by a goal. The first a 2-1 UMass win at Merrimack came with just four seconds remaining in the game. The second was a 5-4 overtime win for the Minutemen at home.
Despite the lead and carrying play, the Warriors again fell victim to the battle-tested champs. Lucas Mercuri tied the game late in the third period, and senior captain Bobby Trivigno won it with thirty-eight seconds remaining in overtime.
“We battled back,” said Trivigno. “We put ourselves in a tough spot, but it’s great that we find ways to win games. Scotty (Morrow) made a really good pass there. I was just lucky I got a breakaway.”
The Minutemen had the game’s first two penalties. A Hooking call on Merrimack’s Alex Jeffries at 7:14 followed by a High-Sticking call on Liam Walsh at 8:04, putting the visitors on a five-on-three for a minute and ten seconds. UMass generated six shots on goal, but the only one to get by Merrimack goalie Zachary Borgiel (24 saves) hit the crossbar on a Morrow shot.
The Warriors took the lead with a delayed penalty against Massachusetts defenseman Slava Demin. With the referee’s arm up and an extra attacker on the ice, Steven Jandric blasted a one-timer from the slot through traffic and beat Matt Murray (30 saves) at 13:01. Max Newton and Zach Uens assisted on Jandric’s third of the season.
Merrimack defenseman Mike Brown was penalized for Tripping at 8:39 of the second period putting the Minutemen on the ma advantage. UMass made sure to equalize as Matthew Kessel one-timed a shot from the blue line past Borgiel to tie the game 1-1. Aaron Bohlinger and Cam Donaldson assisted on the power-play goal.
Merrimack pulled ahead again at 17:56 on a redirect by Mac Welsher in front of the Massachusetts net. Defenseman Declan Carlile wristed a low shot towards the goal from the blue line, and Welsher put his stick on the ice and altered the shot’s trajectory for his second goal of the year and his 10th of his NCAA career.
The Minutemen tied the game late in the third on a redirect. UMass’ freshman class provided the late fireworks as Mercuri tipped a Ryan Ufko shot from the blue line past Borgiel to even the score 2-2. Ryan Lautenbach had the secondary assist on Mercuri’s second of the year.
It looked as if the Minutemen and Warriors would be heading to a shootout when the captain rescued the extra point for the defending National Champions.
Morrow fired off a cross-ice pass past two Merrimack defenders to Trivigno at the top of the crease. Trivigno deked on Borgiel and slid the puck past the sprawling sophomore keeper for his seventh goal of the season and the fortieth of his UMass career.
“I’m happy to come away with two points that put us into first place in Hockey East,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “I feel like we’ve been playing just average hockey. I’m looking forward to the second half. Hopefully, we can elevate and start playing better and winning games, not having to go to overtime.”
“It was another character effort in the third,” added the sixth-year coach. “I didn’t like our first two periods very much, but I thought our third period we played with desperation, and we able to take control of the game. Our best players won the game for us in overtime.”
The Minutemen are off until December 31 when they travel to Schenectady, NY, to compete against the Union College Dutchmen.
“A challenging one to get over,” said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. “It’s going to take a while to get over this one. I think our team gave a great effort. We did that for most of the game. I thought the second period was the best second period we had all year. We got over pucks. I thought we controlled the play in the second period. I thought we dealt with adversity fairly well in the second period.”
“In the third period, I thought we were playing really well,” added Borek. “Then all of a sudden, we got in a tough shift, and we got a little bit on our heels, and we just never got off our heels.”
“The difference in this game is they’re (UMass) a much more comfortable team in a 2-1 game because that’s how you win championships. And they just won one, and our team has to go through this process and learn to be better in those situations.”
Merrimack has an exhibition game against the US Under-18 team this Sunday at 3:00 pm EST and a game against Dartmouth College on Friday, December 17, before breaking for the holidays. The Warriors will be off until New Year’s Day when they face Yale University in New Haven, CT.