Merrimack beats Maine behind Ollas' 33 saves
NORTH ANDOVER — As it turned out, Matt Copponi’s first-period goal was all that No. 19 Merrimack needed to beat Maine, 1-0, at Lawler Arena on Friday night.
It was all the Warriors needed because sophomore goaltender Hugo Ollas made 33 saves to earn his second career shutout.
“I thought he played outstanding,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “He faced a ton of shots, a ton of traffic, and he did a great job for us. He was our best player tonight.”
Some of Ollas’ biggest saves came in the second period when Maine was on the power play twice, including a 5-on-3 at the beginning of the period.
Ollas made three saves on the penalty kill, and at least a few went through enough traffic that he lost sight of the puck.
“When you lose track of the puck like that, I just try to make myself as big as possible,” said Merrimack’s 6-foot-8 goaltender. “You just try to make it so that the puck has to hit you.
“They got a lot of traffic to the net and they play really hard especially in that area, but my guys did a great job of boxing them out and making sure they were in lanes. They did not have many rebound chances because our guys boxed them out.”
Copponi’s goal came in the first period on a rebound after Alex Jefferies put the puck on net.
“It just came off my stick,” Copponi said. “In the back of my head, I saw the rebound and I tried to pull it back in but I sort of lost it and it ended up in the back of the net. A goal is a goal. They don’t ask how, they ask how many, right?”
For the Warriors, the win was their fourth in a row as they improved to 7-3-0. This is the quickest Merrimack has reached the seven-win mark since 2011-12, when the Warriors started the season 9-0-1.
Merrimack ended the night ranked No. 14 in the Pairwise rankings, which is what the NCAA uses to seed teams for the NCAA Tournament. The Warriors were ranked No. 19 in both national polls earlier this week.
“Maine plays really hard and they played a good game,” Borek said. “They made us play their game, and I thought they were successful at that. That’s a credit to their team.
“I’ve been here for a while now, and in the past, we have found ways to lose a game like that. Tonight, we found a way to win a game. We did what we had to do in order to get it done, and that’s promising. And that’s an earned thing, and I think we've been earning it this year with the way we play.”
The loss dropped Maine to 2-7-1 on the season. It was the third one-goal loss in a row for the Black Bears, after they dropped a pair of 3-2 games to UConn last weekend.
"We just have to find a way,” said head coach Ben Barr. “Our guys work incredibly hard. Every single night. I'm proud of their effort. We need to find a way to score more goals."
Ed. Note — Portions of this story will appear in Saturday’s Eagle Tribune
Merrimack 1, Maine 0 at Lawler Arena Maine (2-7-1): 0-0-0--0 Merrimack (7-3-0): 1-0-0--1 First Period: 1. Matt Copponi 3 (Alex Jefferies, Slava Demin), ev, 12:23. Second Period: None. Third Period: None. Shots: MC 10-5-8--23 ; ME 8-7-18--33 Saves: MC Ollas (60:00) 33/33; ME Ostman (58:25) 22/23 Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 3; Maine 0 for 3 Penalties: Merrimack 3-6:00; Maine 3-6:00 Attendance: 2,186 (2,549)