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Maine hangs on to beat Merrimack in series opener
NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack got a little taste of its own medicine.
Maine traveled to Lawler Arena last night in the first game of a two-game weekend series and beat the Warriors 2-1. Merrimack trailed 2-0 but added an extra-attacker goal with less than a minute left in the third period and nearly tied the game in the waning seconds, but Maine held on.
The effort reminded Merrimack head coach Scott Borek of last year’s surprise Merrimack team that advanced to the Hockey East finals.
"Maine was very hungry," he said. "We're obviously disappointed with the result. We need to be more prepared for their physicality. I thought that was the biggest difference. They reminded me a lot of our team last year, the depth of their lineup was very good. We have to be better.
"We played a good schedule thus far, but we played more stick teams and Maine is more of a body-on-body team. They were more physical at the puck."
The Black Bears are one of the hottest teams in college hockey to begin the new season. They dominated RPI on opening weekend and then split a series on the road against Quinnipiac, the defending national champions, last week.
The Black Bears had the puck more often than not, especially in the first and third periods.
"We finished well," said Maine coach Ben Barr. "Merrimack took it to us a little bit in the second period. We just played a mature game. Being on the road, we played a mature game and we didn't do that last Saturday night against Quinnipiac, so I think we learned from that."
The Warriors had their chances. Maine goalie Victor Ostman stopped Ben Brar on a breakaway, and the Warriors had multiple chances on the doorstep, but Ostman played well down low and didn't allow the Warriors to generate many second chances.
"We need to shoot the puck quicker," Borek said. "We didn't get pucks to the net quickly enough."
Lynden Breen scored Maine's first goal of the game and then set up the eventual game-winner in the third period, even though he didn't show up on the scoresheet for the goal. Breen forced a turnover that resulted in Bradly Nadeau's goal off a one-timer.
"He's just a really good player," Barr said. "He does everything for us. He's playing with those two younger guys (the Nadeau brothers) and he's leading those guys by example. They're both very good players as well. (Breen) really is an elite player."
Ostman made 25 saves for the Black Bears. Merrimack goalie Hugo Ollas stopped 20 shots.
"(Ostman) made some big stops, which we needed because we were shaky at times," Barr said.
"Their goalie was good," added Borek. "Our goalie was good. We both had Grade-A chances."
The Warriors and Black Bears finish the series Saturday night at Lawler Arena.
Jefferies made his season debut
Merrimack senior Alex Jefferies made his season debut after missing the first five games of the season due to a lower-body injury. Jefferies played a prominent role in the game and centered Ben Brar and Tyler Young. Jefferies was back on Merrimack's top power-play unit, and he was on the ice with the goalie pulled late in the game.
It was full steam ahead.
"I thought he was good," Borek said. "He showed a little bit of a jump. He's been out for a while, so he has to just stay with it and keep moving forward. He can't get frustrated. A game like tonight was a tough game to be your first game when you've been out for a while. But I thought he played well. It was good to have him back out there."
Merrimack wore "AD" decals on the back of their helmets in honor of Adine Djurasevic, the mother of freshman defenseman Frank Djurasevic, who passed away earlier this week. They held a moment of silence before the game as well.
Maine had a 32-21 edge in faceoffs. Jefferies (7-6) and Mac Welsher (7-4) were the only Warriors with a positive winning percentage.
Maine 2, Merrimack 1 at Lawler Arena Maine (4-1-0): 0-1-1--2 Merrimack (3-2-1): 0-0-1--1 First Period: None Second Period: 1. ME Lynden Breen 2 (Josh Nadeau), ev, 1:03. Third Period: 2. ME Bradly Nadeau 3 (Josh Nadeau), ev, 10:44; 3. MC Matt Copponi 3 (Zach Bookman), pp/ea, 19:09. Shots: MC 5-9-12--26; ME 7-6-9--22 Saves: MC Ollas (56:38) 20/22; ME Ostman (60:00) 25/26 Penalties: MC 1-2:00; ME 2-4:00 Power Play: MC 0 for 1; ME 1 for 2 Attendance: 2,438