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Citara's two goals lifts Merrimack past Lowell in a shootout
NORTH ANDOVER — Michael Citara scored the game-tying goal for Merrimack late in the third period and then scored the only goal of the shootout in a 2-1 win for the Warriors over UMass Lowell last night at Lawler Arena.
The thing is ... he almost wasn't on the ice.
Around the 12-minute mark of the second period, Merrimack coach Scott Borek told Citara to take some shifts off.
"He's an offensive player, and a dynamic offensive player, but sometimes you just don't have it that night. I didn't feel like he had it, and I told him to be patient,” Borek said.
In the third period, after the Warriors took a too many men on the ice penalty, Borek asked Citara to serve the penalty.
When he exited the box at the conclusion of the penalty kill, he found himself on a 2-on-1 with Matt Copponi. The Warriors trailed 1-0, and it was Citara's first shift, officially, of the period.
He went hard to the net and finished a rebound chance after Copponi put the initial shot off the pads of Lowell goalie Henry Welsch.
"I was really impressed with him," Borek said. "I told him to stay in the game, and he went on to score two of the biggest goals of our sesaon to date. He said to me, 'coach, do what you need to do.' He's a really good kid, and the fact that he got rewarded like that, I'm really excited for him. Our whole team was, quite frankly."
Citara scored the only goal in the shootout. Zachary Borgiel stopped all three shooters he faced.
"I've done that shootout move a few times," Citara said. "It's my go-to. I was lucky enough that it went in."
Citara's game-tying goal was his fifth of the season, which is tied for the team lead with Alex Jefferies. He’s made an immediate impact on the Merrimack offense since he joined the team from Providence out of the transfer portal this past summer.
Citara now has seven points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 10 games. Through 36 games at Providence, he had six points (4 goals, 2 assists).
"Coming out of the box I saw Matty had a step on his guy and I thought I could get a step on my guy. He put it right off the goalie's pad and it landed right on my stick."
Borek originally recruited Citara to Providence. He bounced in and out of the lineup for the Friars but has found a role on Merrimack's top line alongside Alex Jefferies and Matt Copponi.
"They make it easy," he said. "Two NHL picks, an All-American, yeah, they make it easy.
"Once I hit the portal, Coach Borek called me and said 'give me a chance.' I was all-in. I'm really grateful to be here. Being able to play and help my team is an unbelievable feeling."
Breaking the rotation
Merrimack broke from its back-and-forth goalie rotation, starting Borgiel for the second game in a row. To this point, he had alternated starts with Hugo Ollas.
"Both of our goalies weren't feeling well earlier in the week," Borek said. "To be honest, Zach was able to practice (Tuesday) and Hugo wasn't, so it made the decision on who was going to start pretty simple."
Shootouts were instituted in college hockey in 2020. Since then, the Warriors have played 101 games. Last night was just the third time they've taken part in a shootout, and it's the first time the Warriors have won a regular-season shootout (not including in-season tournaments) in program history.
Merrimack previously lost two shootouts to New Hampshire in 2020-21. The last shootout they participated in was Feb. 19, 2021, at New Hampshire.
Merrimack 2, UMass Lowell 1 (SO) at Lawler Arena UMass Lowell (4-4-1-2): 0-0-1-0—1 Merrimack (4-4-1-1): 0-0-1-0—1 Merrimack wins the shootout 1-0 First Period: None. Second Period: None. Third Period: 1. UML Nick Rheaume 3 (Nick Granowicz), ev, 0:24; 2. MC Michael Citara 5 (Matt Copponi), ev, 16:11. Shots: MC 6-9-15-2—32; UML 13-14-6-1—34 Saves: MC Borgiel (64:59) 33/34; UML Welsch (64:54) 31/32 Power Play: MC 0 for 1; UML 0 for 3 Penalties: MC 3-6:00; UML 1-2:00 Attendance: 2,576