Merrimack comes back to beat Sacred Heart

NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack head coach Scott Borek wasn’t in the building, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t keeping an eye on his team.

After falling behind late in the second period, the Warriors tied the game with just 54 seconds left and then received a pair of third-period goals from Liam Walsh and Max Newton to secure a 4-2 win over Sacred Heart last night at Lawler Arena. 

Merrimack played its first game at home in front of fans since March of 2020. 

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Borek, who tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19 earlier this week, took part in a postgame Zoom with the team; he hopes to return to the bench next weekend.

“We need our best players to be our best players,” Borek said after the game when reached by phone. 

After dropping the season opener to No. 11 Providence on Thursday, the Warriors came back and scored the first goal of the game at the 12:33 mark of the opening period. Regan Kimens scored his first goal of the year to give his team the lead.

Sacred Heart began to take control of the game’s momentum in the second period. Braeden Tuck scored twice, the second one with 2:01 left in the period, to give the Pioneers a lead.

“We had a lot of turnovers,” said acting Merrimack coach Bob Emery, who was filling in for Borek for a second straight game. “We had a lot of turnovers off the wall. In the second period, we had a lot of turnovers from on top of the hash marks. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games like that. 

“We weren’t skating at all. Sometimes you only have to take half a stride before you make a pass, but we were standing still with the puck. When you do that, you have no other option but to pass. Then they are able to step into lanes and we didn’t take the ice. We need to do a better job of getting pucks over lines and get it deep.”

It was short-lived, however. 

With Dante Fantauzzi in the box for cross-checking, Ben Brar scored on the power play which made sure the game was tied at intermission.

“That was a huge power-play goal,” Emery said. “That goal gave us momentum and we adjust in the third period.

Then in the final 20 minutes, Walsh scored what ended up as the game-winning goal just 2:01 into the final period. Newton added insurance with 10:06 left on a gorgeous feed from sophomore winger Alex Jefferies.

“We made a big adjustment after the second period,” Emery said. “In the third period we took ice that was in front of us and we weren’t going for that long pass. You need to get the puck over lines and get it in deep. Then we worked a lot of plays down low around the net.”

Newton had two points and was named the game’s No. 1 star. 

“If we want to contend near the top of Hockey East, we needed to send a message to Hockey East,” Newton said. “We thought (on Thursday) there was some positive stuff we can build off of. It carried over tonight and we were ready. We needed a win tonight. We were talking about it before the game. We want to be a good team, and if we are we can’t lose twice in a weekend. We didn’t do that tonight and that’s a step in the right direction.”

Freshmen stand out

Merrimack freshman defenseman Mike Brown wasn’t even on Merrimack’s original roster. But after Colby Bukes left the program, Brown was added late in the summer and was the only freshman defenseman to play in both of Merrimack’s first two games. Adam Arvedson played on Thursday night and Ivan Zivlak made his debut last night.

Freshman forward Matt Copponi also played in both of Merrimack’s first two games.

“They were steady,” Emery said. “They have a lot to learn, we all do. We’re happy with their play. They’re doing what’s asked of them and we’re asking them to play quite a bit of minute. At times they have to be a little smarter, but so does everyone else.”

Welsher’s line shines again

Mac Welsher centered Jake Durflinger and Regan Kimens last night and Emery said he thought it was Merrimack’s best line. Welsher and Durflinger were together on Thursday against Providence as well.

“They played really well,” he said. “They were heavy, they played smart. 

“As a coach, you want to go with the guys who are playing well. Josh (Ciocco) changed the forwards tonight and he leaned on them. Towards the end of a period, or at the beginning of a period. Hockey is a game of momentum and you want to get that momentum as much as you can. They were giving that to us big time.”

Game Notes

The Warriors were playing their first home game in front of fans in 595 days. … Zivlak recorded his first career point in his collegiate debut, notching an assist on Liam Walsh’s game-winning goal in the third period. … Durflinger’s assist on Kimens’ goal was his first point as a Warrior after transferring from Denver in the offseason. … Newton had a two-point night for the Warriors. Merrimack wore their home white jerseys while Sacred Heart wore their rod red sweaters. 

Merrimack 4, Sacred Heart 2
at Lawler Arena, Merrimack College
Sacred Heart (0-2-0):		0-2-0—2
Merrimack College (1-1-0):	1-1-2—4
First Period: 1. MC Regan Kimens (Mac Welsher, Jake Durflinger), ev, 12:33.
Second Period: 2. SH Braeden Tuck (Austin Magera), ev, 0:3; 3. SH Braeden Tuck (Logan Britt, Austin Magera), ev, 17:59; 4. MC Ben Brar (Declan Carlile, Max Newton), pp, 19:16.
Third Period: 5. MC Liam Walsh (Ivan Zivlak, Logan Drevitch), ev, 2:01; 6. MC Max Newton (Alex Jefferies, Zach Uens), ev, 9:54.
SOG: MC 11-12-13—36; SHU 8-7-12—27
Shot Attempts: MC 20-29-22—71; SHU 14-15-26—55
Saves: MC Borgiel (60:00) 8-5-12—27; SH Benson 
Power Play: MC 1-2 (7 shots) ; SH 0-1 (2 shots)
Penalties: MC 1-2:00; SHU 2-4:00