NORTH ANDOVER — Granted, Merrimack men’s hockey assistant coach Josh Ciocco wished his team didn’t have a hole to dig out of, but given the circumstances, the Warriors left Lawler Arena last night feeling alright after a 5-5 tie with the Vermont Catamounts.
Merrimack trailed 4-1 midway through the second period before tying the game at 4-4. Then the Catamounts scored early in the third to take a 5-4 lead before Merrimack defenseman Patrick Holway scored with 2:30 left in the third period to even the score again.
“Obviously we’re happy we got a point out of that because our guys were able to come back twice,” Ciocco said. “That was a positive for our group. But obviously we’d like to come away with a win in our building.
After falling behind 3-1 early in the second period, the Warriors pulled starter Troy Kobryn and replaced him with Jere Huhtamaa.
“We’re exposing our goalies,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “Our goalies are getting scoring opportunities against them that other goalies aren’t facing, and it’s mainly because of our transition. It’s mainly because of our transition when we lose the puck isn’t as quick as it needs to be. That’s why we made the change. It wasn’t even Troy; I thought we left Troy hung out to dry a little bit.”
After the switch, the Warriors gave up another at the 12:31 mark before rattling off three straight goals in the final six minutes of the second period.
First, defenseman Zach Uens one-timed a pass from Chase Gresock at the top of the right circle to make it 4-2. Tyler Irvine scored a power-play goal that made the game 4-3 and Ben Brar wrapped in a Sami Tavernier rebound to tie the score.
“It’s not positive that we’ve put ourselves in those situations, but our guys have shown an ability to not let the game get away from them, and continue to keep coming,” Ciocco said. “We’d much prefer if we weren’t putting ourselves in those holes, but I do think it shows a little bit of character and some resiliency that we’re able to battle back from that.”
William LeMay gave Vermont the lead back at the 3:12 mark of the third period but Holway scored the equalizer with 2:30 left, taking a feed from Zach Vinnell, who carried the puck down low, and beating Stefanos Lekkas.
“He was good,” Borek said. “I still think he needs to continue developing his 2-on-1 game on the breakout, because when you try to play too much 1-on-1 you end up exposing yourself. … I want to see him get a little quicker on retrievals and then I think his game is going to explode. He’s very talented.”
While he didn’t end up on the scoresheet with any points, junior forward Griff Jeszka led the Warriors with eight shots on goal. Jeszka’s line was responsible for Merrimack’s first goal of the game when Ryan Nolan tapped in a feed from Regan Kimens in the first period; it was Nolan’s first collegiate goal.
“They’ve actually given us some good games here,” Ciocco said. “They’re our fourth line and we need them to create energy, I think Griff did a good job of that tonight. He’s a big strong kid and he can move as well. When he keeps it simple and just goes north-south he’s effective and he did that for large portions of the game.”
Sami Tavernier had a pair of assists and has multi-point games in three of Merrimack’s last four outings; Tavernier has six points in his last four games (2 goals, 4 assists), which matches his total from the first 17 games combined.
“There have been a few games now where he’s probably been the best player on the ice,” Ciocco said. “He’s starting to get rewarded for his effort. It’s not that the effort wasn’t there in the first half, he just wasn’t getting rewarded for it and lately, he has been.”
NOTES: The five goals scored by Vermont was its most in a game all season. … Friday’s game marked the third time in the last four games the Warriors have scored four or more goals; previous to this stretch, Merrimack had scored four or more goals in three of its first 20 games. … Merrimack’s 41 shots on goal were a season-high. Merrimack out-attempted Vermont 73-47. … With an assist against Vermont, Regan Kimens is on a five-game point streak.
NEXT: The Warriors and Catamounts finish out the weekend series with a 7 p.m. puck drop tonight at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack 5, Vermont 5
at Lawler Arena
Vermont (3-15-2): 2-2-1-0—5
Merrimack (5-16-2): 1-3-1-0—5
First Period: 1. UVM Andrew Lucas 3 (Johnny DeRoche), ev (4:55); 2. UVM Jacques Bouquot 3 (William LeMay, Andrew Lucas), pp (6:54); 3. MC Ryan Nolan 1 (Liam Walsh, Regan Kimens), ev (10:51).
Second Period: 4. UVM Derek Lodermeier 3 (Corey Moriarty, Dallas Comeay), 0:58 (ev); 5. UVM Corey Thomas 1 (Max Kaufman, Bryce Misley), 12:31 (ev); 6. MC Zach Uens 4 (Chase Gresock, Logan Drevitch), 13:26 (ev); 7. MC Tyler Irvine 10 (Sami Tavernier), 17:32 (pp); 8. MC Ben Brar 4 (Sami Tavernier, Tyler Irvine), 19:13 (ev).
Third Period: 9. UVM Wiliam LeMay 2 (Bryce Misley), 3:12 (ev); 10. MC Patrick Holway 2 (Zach Vinnell, Chase Gresock), 17:30 (ev).
Shots: Merrimack 11-14-9-7—41 ; Vermont 12-6-9-1—28
Saves: MC Kobryn (20:58) 10-0-0; MC Huhtamaa (43:57) x-4-8-1—13; UVM Lekkas (65:00) 10-11-8-7—36
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 3 (2 shots); Vermont 1 for 3 (2 shots)
Penalties: Merrimack 6-12:00; Vermont 7-14:00