Ed note – This story will appear in Saturday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune.
NORTH ANDOVER — Behind 19 saves from Jere Huhtamaa and a first-period goal from Tyler Irvine, the Merrimack men’s hockey team skated to a 1-1 tie against No. 13 Northeastern last night at Lawler Arena.
Irvine gave the Warriors the lead just 6:11 into the game, on the power play, before Northeastern’s Matt Demelis scored the equalizer exactly 10 minutes later at the 16:11 mark of the period. That was all of the game’s scoring, as Huhtamaa turned away 19 shots and former Merrimack goaltender Craig Pantano made 37 saves in his return to Lawler Arena.
“It was a really hard-fought game,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “(Northeastern) is a very good team and they’re very opportunistic. Our goaltender stepped up. I would have liked to see a different result, but that’s a point of growth for us, especially after the way we started the game in the first period. We were on our heels in the first period and we came back much better in the second and third.”
The Warriors outshot Northeastern 38-20. Merrimack has outshot its opponent in each of the last three games by a total of 97-55.
Merrimack’s special teams also delivered against the Huskies. The Warriors went 1 for 6 on the power play with 13 shots on goal and limited the Huskies to 0 for 6 with just six shots allowed.
“They have a really good power play and it’s kind of scary,” Borek said. “We stayed in lanes really well. Our goalie made some huge saves when he had to, but I thought we stayed in lanes and we got to the second-chance pucks. That was the key to it. We did not give them a second chance. I don’t think they had any second chances on the power play.”
Pantano, who was named Hockey East Goalie of the Month for October, has played all but 19 minutes for the Huskies since joining the program as a grad transfer this past summer.
After four years with the Warriors, Pantano has a 1.94 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in nine starts.
“Without Craig we don’t walk away with a point,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “The goal they scored was off a bad turnover on our part and we blocked the shot and it actually went off a shaft. Merrimack was strong going to the net. I felt bad for Craig on that goal because I thought he did all the right things, he just didn’t get a bounce there. … He came back and got us a point and I’m happy for him, in this building, to get that point and play as well as he did. He had a lot of success in this building.”
Added Borek, “(Pantano) is a heck of a goalie. He helped them get a point tonight and our goalie helped us get a point, so I think from the goalie perspective it was a draw, just like the game.”
NOTES: Chase Gresock returned to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 6 and had seven shots on goal for the Warriors. … Northeastern defenseman Michael Kesselring was playing his first collegiate game at Lawler Arena; his dad, Casey, is a Merrimack alum and Kesselring was committed to Merrimack before flipping his choice to the Huskies. … Tyler Irvine led Merrimack on faceoffs (14-8). … Every Merrimack forward, except Hugo Esselin (who was the extra forward on the line chart) registered at least one shot on goal.
NEXT: At Northeastern tonight, 7 p.m.
Merrimack 1, #13 Northeastern 1 (OT)
Northeastern (4-3-2): 1-0-0-0—1
Merrimack (2-6-1): 1-0-0-0—1
First Period: 1. MC Tyler Irvine (Zach Uens, Declan Carlile), 6:11 (pp); 2. NU Matt Demelis 2 (Biagio Lerario, John Picking), 16:11 (ev).
Second Period: None.
Third Period: None.
Shots: Merrimack 11-15-8-4—38; Northeastern 9-3-7-1—20
Saves: MC Huhtamaa 8-3-7-1—19; NU Pantano 10-15-8-4—37
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 6 (13 shots); Northeastern 0 for 6 (6 shots)
Attendance: 2,014 (2,549)