ORONO, Maine — The last few months have been understandably tough on Merrimack goaltender Drew Vogler. The junior began the season as Merrimack’s primary starter before Craig Pantano entered the lineup in October and played stellar along the way, earning start after start while Vogler was relegated to sidelines.
Vogler would get back in the lineup on Jan. 20, playing well in a loss for the Warriors at BU. Vogler would get his second start since Pantano’s run on Saturday night at Alfond Arena, stopping 36 shots en route to his first win of the season, a 3-2 overtime victory for the Warriors.
“Craig has been phenomenal,” Vogler said. “You can’t ask for anything more than what he’s given us. He’s been fantastic. For me, it feels great to get in there and contribute. It’s been tough for me, personally, not being out there because you feel like you’re not helping your team. But I’ve worked hard and battled for my chances.”
It was a tough start for Vogler, not in that he allowed an early goal but the Warriors had the puck pinned down the Maine end for the first 14 minutes of the game, outshooting the Black Bears 11-2 thanks in large part to a pair of early power plays.
But once the Black Bears pressured, they really began pressuring. Vogler made 18 of his saves in the third period alone.
“It’s a little tough to stay dialed in (when you’re not facing shots) and then all of a sudden there is a lot of action and they’re pouring it on,” Vogler said. “But I just tried to keep a good, positive mindset and he ready for anything. The boys did a great job letting me see pucks.”
Tavernier joins the top line
Sami Tavernier scored the game-winner for Merrimack, and he was also making his full-time debut on the line with Brett Seney and Jace Hennig. Tavernier had played with Seney and Henning in the past, both on the power play and also that line has been put together late in games when the Warriors have been looking for a goal. It worked out in some instances, such as when Tavernier scored an overtime game-winner at UConn last month.
“I love playing with those guys,” Tavernier said. “We get along great and like playing with each other. As the game went on we worked hard. We weren’t good enough defensively, but we didn’t allow any 5-on-5 goals. Then Seney and I had a goal, we got a win, so it’s a good night.”
The Warriors figured out a way to earn points without the power play at optimal performance. Merrimack went 0 for 5 on the power play, instead getting two 5-on-5 goals and a shorthanded goal from Seney.
“It’s been frustrating just scoring on the power play,” Tavernier said. “We talked as a group and we need to score more 5-on-5. Tonight we did.”
Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said the lineup change to add Tavernier to that line was in an effort to find a spark, and he also admitted they haven’t found four combinations they’re happy with yet.
“We still haven’t found the lines that we’re looking for,” he said. “It’s a funny game. We go into the game saying that we need to win on special teams and then we’ll get to three (goals). Last night we give up two shorthanded goals and tonight we get a shorthanded goal, we don’t win on special teams, but we did get to three (goals) and we won the game.”
Petti shines defensively
Junior forward Derek Petti wasn’t on the scoresheet, but he was vital in the victory for the Warriors.
Maine gave Merrimack fits all weekend in transition, bull-rushing the attacking zone off Merrimack turnovers. Petti seemed to always be making a big play to disrupt that transition.
“Petti was excellent,” Dennehy said. “He was one of the best players on the ice for both teams. He’s so smart and responsible. … In the third period we didn’t get the puck deep and we turned over way too many pucks inside our blue line. We were going the wrong way, and (Petti) was one of the few ones who wasn’t.”
Tavernier scored his second overtime winner of the season after also doing so at Connecticut on Jan. 5. … Merrimack has now played in three consecutive overtime games for the first time since Feb. 15-24, 2013. The Warriors went 1-1-1 during that span with a split against Boston College and a tie against Providence. … Merrimack improved to 8-2-2 when lighting the lamp three or more times compared to 0-14-2 when being held to two goals or fewer.