Ed. Note: Portions of this story will appear in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — With under five minutes left in a tie game against New Hampshire, the Merrimack men’s hockey team had a golden opportunity to go ahead after Filip Engaras was assessed a five-minute major for contact to the head on Liam Walsh. But UNH’s penalty kill stuffed every Merrimack chance.
Then after a scoreless 3-on-3 overtime, the Wildcats earned the extra point by winning a shootout and took a 3-2 victory back to Durham.
Merrimack had just one shot on goal during the major power play.
“They gave a high level of effort, and we relaxed,” said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. “We weren’t detailed and aggressive with the puck. Our entry into the zone hurt us the most. We need to be better there. Tonight, it cost us the game and that’s disappointing.”
Regan Kimens opened the scoring at the 6:23 mark of the first period. UNH tried to clear the puck out of the zone but it bounced off Patrick Kramer’s leg and trickled behind the defenseman, where Kimens was waiting to pounce on the puck and roof it over Zach Borgiel’s shoulder.
Tyler Ward tied the game for the Wildcats at the 15:09 mark of the first period when he picked up a loose puck after a turnover at the blue line and fired it from the high slot.
Amidst an evenly-played second period, Merrimack newcomer Max Newton – a transfer from Alaska – scored his first career goal with the Warriors to once again give them a one-goal lead. Newton took a feed from Alex Jefferies behind the net after Ben Brar won a puck battle on the end boards.
Late in the second period – with just 32.8 seconds left on the clock – Patrick Grasso scored to tie the game once again. Grasso was set up by Jackson Pierson on a 4-on-3 power play.
“We want to be aggressive,” Borek said. “The 4-on-3 is an unusual situation and they made a good play. Up to that point, we kept it to the outside but we did give them chances to the net, and after a while, that will hurt you, and I think that’s what happened on the 5-on-3.”
Merrimack dominated UNH for most of Friday’s game until late in the third period when the Wildcats were able to score twice, but the Warriors walked out of the Whittemore Center with a 5-2 win. UNH head coach Mike Souza said after the game that he wanted his team to show more physically, and the Wildcats set that tone early in Saturday’s rematch.
“UNH had a great bounceback,” Borek said. “Our answer wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. We got a lot of pucks on net, their goalie played well, but we gave our own goaltender some difficult situations. We had some great chances in OT, I’m really disappointed in the PP at the end of the game, but that’s growth.”
Last night’s game was Merrimack’s first extended experience playing the new 3-on-3 overtime format. The Warriors had an overtime game against Northeastern end quickly earlier this season.
“We created some chances,” Borek said. “It’s the first time we’ve really been in that. The last time it ended quickly. We were poised and created opportunities. Both teams did. I liked the way we handled the 3-on-3 but we had some great looks. For really our first experience with it, we did pretty well with it.”
After the scoreless overtime, the Warriors played their first shootout of the season. Chase Gresock scored on his attempt but Patrick Grasso and Kalle Eriksson scored for the Wildcats. The game came down to Regan Kimens and UNH goalie Mike Robinson made the game-winning stop.
“It’s really a feeling who goes out for the shootout,” Borek said. “We do breakaways a lot in practice. When your first two are Gresock and Jefferies you have two high-end guys who know what to do with the puck. I had a gut feeling about Regan. He’s a hard-nosed player and he can handle that situation well. We didn’t get the result tonight, but I’m confident when he goes out there for that chance.”
UNH 3, Merrimack 2 (SO) at Lawler Arena New Hampshire (3-8-2): 1-1-0-0—2 Merrimack (2-7-1): 1-1-0-0—2 1st Period Scoring - 1, MER Regan Kimens/1 (Patrick Kramer/2) 6:23 2, UNH Tyler Ward/1 15:09 Penalties - Liam Walsh, MER (Roughing) 16:18 2nd Period Scoring - 3, MER Max Newton/1 (Alex Jefferies/5, Ben Brar/2) 14:12 4, UNH Patrick Grasso/4 (Jackson Pierson/8, Kalle Eriksson/6) 19:27 (PP) Penalties - Kohei Sato, UNH (Roughing) 18:20; Max Newton, MER (Roughing) 18:20; Declan Carlile, MER (Holding) 19:06 3rd Period Scoring - None Penalties - Bench, MER (Too Many Players) 7:49; Filip Engarås, UNH (5-Contact to the Head) 15:24; Filip Engarås, UNH (10-Game Misconduct) 15:24 Overtime Scoring - None Penalties - None New Hampshire Goaltending - Mike Robinson (65:00, 34 shots, 32 saves, 2 GA) Merrimack Goaltending - Zachary Borgiel (65:00, 23 shots, 21 saves, 2 GA) Tie - Mike Robinson, UNH (3-7-2). Tie - Zachary Borgiel, MER (2-5-1). Shots On Goal - UNH 8-8-3-4=23; MER 9-13-7-5=34 Power Plays - UNH 1 of 3; MER 0 of 1 Penalties - UNH 3 (17 min); MER 4 (8 min) New Records - Merrimack 2-7-1, New Hampshire 3-8-2 Shootout: Round 1: Shootout Attempt by UNH Jackson Pierson Saved by MER Goaltender Zachary Borgiel (UNH 0, MER 0) Round 1: Shootout GOAL by MER Chase Gresock, against UNH Goaltender Mike Robinson (UNH 0, MER 1) Round 2: Shootout GOAL by UNH Kalle Eriksson, against MER Goaltender Zachary Borgiel (UNH 1, MER 1) Round 2: Shootout Attempt by MER Alex Jefferies Saved by UNH Goaltender Mike Robinson (UNH 1, MER 1) Round 3: Shootout GOAL by UNH Patrick Grasso, against MER Goaltender Zachary Borgiel (UNH 2, MER 1) Round 3: Shootout Attempt by MER Regan Kimens Saved by UNH Goaltender Mike Robinson (UNH 2, MER 1) Three Stars: 1. Patrick Grasso (New Hampshire) 2. Mike Robinson (New Hampshire) 3. Max Newton (Merrimack)