Tavernier lifts Merrimack past Connecticut in overtime
HARTFORD, Conn. – The Merrimack men’s hockey team rallied from one goal down with 90 seconds left to tie the score and then beat UConn in overtime, 3-2, on Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
After only seeing one goal in the first 40 minutes of the contest, each side lit the lamp 30 seconds apart at the start of the third. First it was Merrimack senior Marc Biega who drew the game even at 1-1 at the 2:52 mark, but a turnover allowed the Huskies to retake the lead at 3:22, with both goals coming in 4-on-4 situations. But, as the script has gone for the two schools, late dramatics would ensue, as senior Jace Hennig drew the Warriors level yet again with 1:21 to play to send the game to overtime.
“I thought it was a pretty good hockey game overall,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “I like how our team stayed with it. We played with poise, which when you’re down by a goal can be difficult. I thought Marc Biega was fantastic, our whole D corps. was good. We made some plays down the stretch. … That’s the benefit of having senior defensemen, they’ve seen a lot. Marc was outstanding tonight.”
Merrimack needed only 13 seconds to win it off the ensuing rush of the extra session, as sophomore Sami Tavernier buried a rebound to give the Warriors their first overtime win of the year. Tavernier was moved up to the first line in overtime, playing alongside Brett Seney and Hennig.
“When we played the way we want to play, we did a good job overall,” Dennehy said. “Every time we’ve played this team since Mike (Cavanaugh) has been here has been a grind. We were fortunate, we’ll take the two points, and move on.”
Merrimack improved to 6-0-2 when scoring three-plus goals in a game compared to 0-10-2 when being held to fewer than three goals. They also rallied for their first win when trailing after two periods since last February against Maine. Merrimack had been 0-8-1 when trailing after two periods prior to tonight.
Merrimack and UConn played to a scoreless first period, with both sides combining for 19 shots on target (10-9 in favor of the Huskies). Both junior Craig Pantano and counterpart Adam Huska were perfect in net during the frame to keep it deadlocked at 0-0 entering the second.
UConn took the lead near the midpoint of the second period while on the power play and doubled up the Warriors in shots on goal (12-6), and that stood as the only score in the middle frame to give the Huskies a 1-0 edge after 40 minutes. Merrimack had a pair of power plays in the second stanza but could not capitalize on either.
The Warriors round out their two-game, two-opponent road weekend at No. 11 Providence tomorrow night at 7 p.m.