PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said the Warriors knew, before the puck dropped, the type of night it was going to be at Schneider Arena last night. Providence was starting a line centered by sophomore Vimal Sukumaran, a skilled but hard-nosed forward from Quebec that has given the Warriors fits this season with his physical play.
(Ed. Note — This story will also appear in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune)
The Friars set the tone they were looking for, outworking the Warriors to a 5-2 victory last night in Providence.
“We knew it when we saw Sukumaran’s line starting,” Dennehy said. “We knew what this would be like, and we didn’t answer the physical bell well enough. We retaliated or took silly stick penalties. We needed to be more physical, and we weren’t. They won way more battles than us. They were way more physical than us. … You have to compete, and we didn’t compete the right way tonight. We tried, but we were on the other end of it.
“The last five periods we’ve played (Providence), it’s been a very physical affair, and I don’t think that we’ve handled the physicality the way we would like to. It’s not always the guy who throws the first hit who gets penalized, it’s the guy who retaliates, and they were the aggressor most of the night and we didn’t know how to handle it. It’s a good lesson for us. We need to get better in that scenario.”
Providence scored first at the 7:31 mark of the first period, but the Warriors closed the opening session with two unanswered goals.
Jared Kolquist scored for the Warriors on the power play, getting to a loose puck in the high slot off a block and snapping a wrister past Hayden Hawkey (10 saves).
Ludvig Larsson gave Merrimack the lead at the first intermission when he scored with 22.6 seconds left in the first period. Cole McBride controlled the puck in the right corner and sent it to Larsson, who was skating to the net in the right circle and Larsson snapped a quick one-timer.
“They were on the balls of their feet all night,” Dennehy said. “There must have been 1,000 hits tonight. If you touched the puck, someone in white was laying a body on you. You had to fight through picks and we just didn’t work hard enough. We came back after allowing the first goal, but all night we just weren’t working hard enough. That was the biggest issue.”
Merrimack was holding that 2-1 lead for most of the second period, despite Providence’s heavy advantage in shots. Brian Pinho, a North Andover native, would tie the game at the 15:48 mark, scoring on a breakaway just as a Friar power play expired; Hawkey notched the lone assist on the play, sending the puck up ice for his senior captain.
“We got momentum and good zone time off our power plays and that helped us,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said. “We didn’t score, but that momentum definitely helped us.”
Three minutes after that, Kasper Björkqvist nudged off his defender in the left circle and gave Providence a 3-2 lead at the second intermission. Erik Foley doubled that lead to 4-2 midway through the third period, finishing a rebound after Merrimack goaltender Craig Pantano (22 saves) made a tough save on Vincent Desharnais off the draw.
Björkqvist tacked on an empty-netter with 1:35 to play.
“When they started 22’s line, it’s game on,” Dennehy said. “He’s an agitator, he’s skilled, he plays hard and he’s very good at it. We need to respond to that.”
Merrimack hosts UConn on Friday night at Lawler Rink.
#11 Providence 5, Merrimack 2 at Schneider Arena Merrimack (6-11-4): 2-0-0—2 Providence (14-7-1): 1-2-2—5 1st Period Scoring - 1, PRV Brandon Duhaime/4 (Tommy Davis/6) 7:31 2, MER Jared Kolquist/4 (Sami Tavernier/6, Brett Seney/13) 16:20 (PP) 3, MER Ludvig Larsson/6 (Cole McBride/4, Derek Petti/4) 19:37 Penalties - Johnathan Kovacevic, MER (Hooking) 7:31; Bailey Conger, PRV (Hooking) 10:00; Erik Foley, PRV (Interference) 16:01; Dominic Dockery, MER (Holding) 17:11 2nd Period Scoring - 4, PRV Brian Pinho/9 (Hayden Hawkey/1) 15:48 5, PRV Kasper Björkqvist/8 (Jacob Bryson/15, Brian Pinho/11) 18:35 (GW) Penalties - Johnathan Kovacevic, MER (Tripping) 1:51; Vincent Desharnais, PRV (Elbowing) 4:30; Tyler Irvine, MER (Holding) 9:14; Scott Conway, PRV (Interference) 10:58; Patrick Kramer, MER (Tripping) 13:42 3rd Period Scoring - 6, PRV Erik Foley/12 (Vincent Desharnais/5, Brandon Duhaime/11) 10:51 7, PRV Kasper Björkqvist/9 (Brian Pinho/12, Greg Printz/3) 18:25 (EN) Penalties - Marc Biega, MER (Interference) 3:33; Tyler Drevitch, MER (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) 11:24; Vincent Desharnais, PRV (Slashing) 11:45 Merrimack Goaltending - Craig Pantano (58:55, 26 shots, 22 saves, 4 GA); Empty Net (1:05, 1 GA) Providence Goaltending - Hayden Hawkey (60:00, 12 shots, 10 saves, 2 GA) Shots On Goal - MER 5-4-3=12; PRV 10-10-7=27 Power Plays - MER 1 of 5; PRV 0 of 7 Penalties - MER 7 (14 min); PRV 5 (10 min) Three Stars: 1. Brandon Duhaime (Providence) 2. Brian Pinho (Providence) 3. Jared Kolquist (Merrimack) Referees: Jeff Bunyon, Terrence Murphy Linesmen: Steven Murray, Phil Kitchen