DURHAM, N.H. — There are no style points in hockey, and at the end of 60 minutes, two points are two points. The Merrimack men’s hockey team walked out of the Whittemore Center with a 4-3 win yesterday over New Hampshire, finishing a two-game weekend with a pair of victories after beating Army on Friday night.
But, the Warriors led 4-1 in the game before allowing UNH to storm back into contention during the third period.
“It’s a funny game,” Dennehy said. “We’ve played a lot better in a lot of our games and lost. I didn’t think we played great but we scored four and they scored three. … We hung on. We did what we needed to do, but it wasn’t pretty.”
UNH got on the board just 34 seconds into the game. A defensive breakdown by the Warriors left Mike McNicholas all alone in front of the net and he had time to deke a rebound past Craig Pantano (25 saves).
The Warriors would tie the score at the 6:57 mark of the first on a smart and tough play by Cole McBride, drawing two defenders towards him and them slipping the puck to Derek Petti right before getting crumpled to the ice with a check from both players. Drawing the defenders gave Petti a clear lane to the net for the goal.
Merrimack took the lead about two minutes later when Sami Tavernier drove the net with the puck on his backhand and he was able to backhand the puck through Danny Tirone’s five hole.
Merrimack’s third goal was the result of a poor breakdown by the Wildcat defense. A pair of UNH defenders had a chance to clear the puck from the slot but whiffed and the puck landed on the stick of Merrimack’s Alfred Larsson, who buried a wrist shot from the slot.
The Warriors’ fourth goal chased Tirone from the game. After winning a battle for a loose puck, Brett Seney drove wide and fed Evan Bell near the right circle. Tirone stopped Bell’s first shot, but the rebound was whacked in by Tyler Irvine. The goal was originally credited as Bell’s first collegiate score, but later changed to Irvine after review.
“That was a fast play,” Bell said. “It was just a bouncing puck. I think (Irvine) got the last of it. I took the initial shot and there was a good rebound there and he was able to whack it in.”
Merrimack started to play with fire in the third period.
Marcus Vela cut the deficit to 4-2 just two minutes into the period after tapping in a feed from Newburyport native Shane Eiserman, who made a nice move driving down the wing.
Second later, Michael Babcock was in the box for an interference call and Marc Biega would be called for interference just a few seconds after Babcock’s penalty expired. That resulted in Patrick Grasso finding space on the power play and one-timing a pass from McNicholas to make it a one-goal game.
“It was like we got up 4-1 and then we were determined to let them back in the game,” Dennehy said. “With a 4-1 lead you have to be a lot smarter. The other team will press and you’ll get chances if you stay patient, but we didn’t. Their second goal we were behind the net and it was like a pee wee play. We throw it out front like little Jimmy is there by himself and they take it down and score. We can play a lot better and we have played a lot better.”
The Warriors will host Northeastern on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) in their final game before the semester break.
Merrimack 4, #13 New Hampshire 3 at the Whittemore Center Merrimack (4-9-3, 2-6-1 HE): 3-1-0—4 New Hampshire (9-7-1, 4-5-1 HE): 1-0-2—3 1st Period Scoring - 1, UNH Michael McNicholas/5 (Jason Salvaggio/4, Patrick Grasso/8) 0:34 2, MER Derek Petti/2 (Cole McBride/2, Ludvig Larsson/7) 6:57 3, MER Sami Tavernier/6 (Evan Bell/1) 8:52 4, MER Alfred Larsson/1 (Logan Coomes/4, Laine McKay/2) 16:36 Penalties - Kohei Sato, UNH (Tripping) 10:28; Ludvig Larsson, MER (Face-off Violation) 10:32 2nd Period Scoring - 5, MER Tyler Irvine/3 (Evan Bell/2, Brett Seney/10) 6:43 (GW) Penalties - Ara Nazarian, UNH (Tripping) 2:36; Ludvig Larsson, MER (Boarding) 3:31; Evan Bell, MER (Goaltender Interference) 17:23; Aaron Titcomb, MER (Roughing) 19:36; Marcus Vela, UNH (Slashing) 19:36 3rd Period Scoring - 6, UNH Marcus Vela/4 (Ara Nazarian/6, Shane Eiserman/3) 2:17 (PP) 7, UNH Patrick Grasso/2 (Michael McNicholas/12, Max Gildon/8) 3:50 Penalties - Michael Babcock, MER (Interference) 2:13; Marc Biega, MER (Interference) 4:21; Marcus Vela, UNH (Tripping) 8:44; Cameron Marks, UNH (Tripping) 11:17; Derek Petti, MER (Interference) 15:25 Merrimack Goaltending - Craig Pantano (60:00, 28 shots, 25 saves, 3 GA) New Hampshire Goaltending - Daniel Tirone (26:43, 11 shots, 7 saves, 4 GA); Mike Robinson (32:17, 12 shots, 12 saves, 0 GA); Empty Net (1:00, 0 GA) Shots On Goal - MER 9-11-3=23; UNH 14-6-8=28 Power Plays - MER 0 of 4; UNH 1 of 6 Penalties - MER 7 (14 min); UNH 5 (10 min) Three Stars: 1. Evan Bell (Merrimack) 2. Michael McNicholas (New Hampshire) 3. Tyler Irvine (Merrimack) Referees: John Gravallese, Marty Hughes Linesmen: Jeremy Lovett, A.J. Potvin