ANN ARBOR —Senior Drew Vogler made 36 saves, with 15 of them coming in the third period alone, while four different Warriors scored to lead the Merrimack College men’s ice hockey team to a 4-2 victory over the University of Michigan on Tuesday night at Yost Ice Arena. The win was Merrimack’s first-ever against the Big Ten perennial power and 2018 Frozen Four participant.
“Our guys played really hard,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “They kept their composure in a difficult place and our goaltending was outstanding. Drew gave us a chance to win. We battled in front of him and we blocked a ton of shots. The effort and composure were at a high-level today and that’s why we were successful.”
An early goal from junior Patrick Kramer gave the Warriors a quick lead before Michigan drew even in the second. But senior Derek Petti and rookie Chase Gresock tallied lamp-lighters in a five-minute span to start the third before Vogler weathered the storm over the final 20 minutes. Junior Johnathan Kovacevic buried an empty-netter to ice it and give the Warriors their second straight victory.
The visitors started hot, scoring less than three minutes into the contest with Kramer netting his career-high fifth in the process. Linemates and fellow freshman Jordan Seyfert and Logan Drevitch moved the puck up the left wing in a transition sequence before Kramer snapped one by Michigan goalie Strauss Mann at the back post.
That score went unchanged over the rest of the first stanza. Both sides finished with 14 shots on goal in a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes and had a power play chance apiece.
After killing an early Merrimack power play, Michigan tied it up with six minutes gone in the second, as Jake Slaker beat Merrimack senior Drew Vogler with a wrister from the left circle that was partially deflected.
“We’ve had struggles offensively and when they made it 1-1, sometimes when that happens we haven’t played great,” Borek said. “To come back and score three more in the third is a positive for our group. We had guys making it to the net and they made plays; we got shots to the net. The power play scored, which was great.”
Each side had abbreviated power play opportunities later in the second, but neither could capitalize, keeping it a 1-1 affair entering the third.
After Michigan was levied an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the second period ended, Petti put the Warriors back in front with an early power play goal just 17 seconds into the final frame. Then, about five minutes later, it was Gresock scoring in his second straight game right off a faceoff win from Petti, putting the Warriors in front by a pair.
Petti’s goal to start the third was Merrimack’s first power play goal in a month (12/8) and snapped a stretch of 19 power plays without a goal.
Michigan cut the deficit in half on a tally from Adam Winborg, who cashed in from the left point through traffic, but that was the closest the hosts would get.
Despite the Wolverines dominating possession through large portions of the third, as indicative by their 16-6 edge in shots on goal, Merrimack would weather the storm and ice it with an empty-netter by Kovacevic to seal the program’s first-ever win over Michigan.
Vogler’s 36 saves were a new season-high as he picked up his first win of the season and first win since last February at Maine (3-2 OT win, 2/3/18).
“When Drew plays that well in net it makes our D zone better and our confidence level is up,” Borek said. “Our offense is even better because you know you have someone behind you that’s going to win you the game. The first 10 minutes of the game we were on our heels, but Drew was outstanding and gave us confidence.”
After a busy stretch, Merrimack will play just once this weekend when it returns to Lawler Rink to host Connecticut on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m.
“Our season is in front of us,” Borek said. “Our team is ready for that. The guys are hungry for success right now and have been from September on. I’m really happy to see them get rewarded. Now we have to keep playing. UConn is a good team and they’ll be a big challenge. We need to play clean. We didn’t have many penalty kills (against Michigan), but we were physical. We were physical, but clean. Sometimes we’ve been undisciplined and that has put us in a tough spot, but tonight that didn’t happen.”