NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College had just tied the score against No. 10 Wisconsin here at Lawler Arena and the Warriors were making a push to take the lead. With a 9-0 advantage in shots over just a few minutes, the Warriors were called for hooking at the 10:16 mark. Wisconsin would convert on a power-play goal almost two minutes later and then find the net twice more over a 39-second span, drastically changing the tone of a game that was heading in Merrimack’s direction and sending the Badgers to a 4-1 win.
“We make a bad read on a penalty kill, we have a change and we don’t read it correctly,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “We over extend ourselves, give up an odd-man rush and give up the (first) goal. We need to be able to respond after that. We need to be able to shut it down and we didn’t, it got away from us. That needs to be a lesson. We have a veteran team but we need to learn from that.”
Jason Ford gave Wisconsin the lead just 1:38 into the game but the Warriors settled the play down and had a slight possession advantage (22-18) the rest of the opening period.
At the 7:12 mark of the second, the Warriors scored the game-tying goal when a puck appeared to get stuck under the pad of Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton, and crossed the goal line when Hayton’s pad swept across the crease. The play went to a review and the puck wasn’t visible crossing the line, prompting Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato to challenge the play, despite that it was just confirmed on a review.
“(Hayton) said the puck never crossed the line,” Granato said. “The ref saw something, but Kyle said he was a goalie, so he knows where the puck is at all times … I was sticking up for my player (on the challenge). I knew it was a long shot that it would be overturned.”
From there the Badgers responded with three goals in the aforementioned 39 seconds. Seamus Malone scored first on a 2-on-1 with Will Johnson. Max Zimmer scored on a tip just 14 seconds later and Ryan Wagner scored on another tip 25 seconds after that.
Both Wisconsin tip-in goals came off point shots from defenseman Peter Tischke.
“It was an emotional couple of minutes,” said Granato. “For how hard Kyle has battled for us, our guys got going for Kyle and took the game over. It was inspiration for our team.”
Merrimack finished with a 42-34 edge in shots on goal and a 70-52 edge in shot attempts.
The Warriors had plenty of chances. Alfred Larsson was a magnet for the net and had pucks bouncing around Hayton (41 saves) all night. Brett Seney hit the cross bar in the first period.
“Think of all the pucks we had that were bouncing around that didn’t go in,” said Dennehy, “and they get two tip-in goals. We need that to go in our favor, and it didn’t.”
Wisconsin improved to 4-1 while the Warriors fell to 0-2-1 on the season. Merrimack hits the road for a pair of games at Minnesota Duluth next season. The Bulldogs were last season’s national runner up, falling to Denver in the national championship game.
“Wisconsin is a good team and they play hard,” Dennehy said. “They have some really skilled players. We played well for large stretches, and I think the whole game came down to about 90 seconds. But that’s a good lesson for us. If you want to beat a good team, you have to be good for 60 minutes.”
#10 Wisconsin 4, Merrimack 1
at Lawler Arena, Merrimack College
Wisconsin (4-1-0): 1-3-0—4
Merrimack (0-2-1): 0-1-0—1
First Period: 1. UW Jason Ford 1 (Tim Davison, Tyler Inamoto), ev, 1:38.
Second Period: 2. MC Tyler Irvine 1 (Logan Coomes), ev, 7:12; 3. UW Seamus Malone 2 (Will Johnson, Tim Davison), pp, 12:01; 4. UW Max Zimmer 1 (Peter Tischke, Jason Ford), ev, 12:15; 5. UW Ryan Wagner 1 (Peter Tischke, Trent Frederic), ev, 12:40.
Shots: Merrimack 10-16-16—42; Wisconsin 13-12-9—34
Saves: MC Vogler 12-9-9—30; UW Hayton 10-15-16—41
Penalties: Merrimack 5-10; Wisconson 5-10
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 4 (11 shots); Wisconsin 1 for 4 (3 shots)
Next: at Minnesota-Duluth Friday, 7 p.m.