Merrimack extends winning streak to six games
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Merrimack hasn't put itself in this position for a while. In fact, it's been more than a decade.
The Warriors beat Sacred Heart, 3-0, last night at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. to improve to 9-3 on the season. It's the Warriors' best start since 2011 and they extended their winning streak to six games, which is also the longest since 2011.
Merrimack was ranked No. 15 in the national polls coming into the game and with the win, the Warriors finished the night ranked No. 10 in the nation in the Pairwise rankings, which is the computer ranking the NCAA uses to select and seed teams for the NCAA Tournament.
"We came out a little slow," said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. "I'm happy with the result, we're really happy with the way that we finished. We did what we needed to do to win the game and that's the most important thing. But I know we can play better than we did."
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors had to kill a major penalty to Nikita Borodayenko, who was called for boarding. After some back-and-forth, which included a penalty to the Pioneers and then an additional penalty to the Warriors, Merrimack had to fill about one minute of 5-on-3 time at the end of the major.
"That PK was huge and I thought it was the turning point in the game," Borek said. "That gave us energy. Whenever you're unsuccessful on a 5-on-3 power play it takes energy from you, and I thought our PK did a great job there to jumpstart our team."
Later in the period, sophomore Matt Copponi put the Warriors on the scoreboard with his sixth goal of the season early in the second period. Copponi has now scored in three straight games. Later, Ben Brar's sixth of the year doubled the Merrimack lead (he has found the net in back-to-back games) and Mac Welsher scored an insurance goal to make it a 3-0 lead in the third period.
"Ben Brar has been playing great hockey," Borek said. "Our team was a little flat, like I said, and he was making good, hard plays. He led our team out of that tonight. The power-play goal from Matt was a big goal and I liked how we executed on that power play. (Alex) Jefferies and Ottoville (Leppanen), they were all playing downhill and attacked, which is the most important thing to do, and Matty got the goal."
Goaltender Hugo Ollas (21 saves) recorded his second straight shutout after he blanked Maine last Friday. The New York Rangers draft pick now has a 1.64 goals-against average and .930 save percentage on the season. Ollas ranks in the top 10 nationally in both categories.
"The great thing about Hugo right now is he's making 'when' saves," Borek said. "It's 0-0 and they had a breakaway, and he makes that save. We're killing a 5-on-3 and they get a good chance, and he makes that save. That's the biggest difference."
The Warriors also had a five-minute power play in the third period when Hunter Sansbury was called for hitting Flip Forsmark at the end of the second period. Forsmark did not return and Borek said after the game it was likely that he would miss time.
It looked like Forsmark was piledriven to the ice by Hunter Sansbury, who was assessed a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.
Merrimack hasn't lost since Oct. 28. Over this stretch the Warriors have beaten Sacred Heart, UMass and they've swept Boston College and Maine in back-to-back weekend series.
Merrimack has the weekend off and will host Holy Cross next Tuesday.
Ed. Note - Portions of this story will appear in Friday’s Eagle Tribune
Merrimack 3, Sacred Heart 0 at Total Mortgage Arena Merrimack (9-3-0): 0-2-1--3 Sacred Heart (6-5-1): 0-0-0--0 First Period: None. Second Period: 1. MC Matt Copponi 6 (Otto Leppanen, Ben Brar), pp, 15:09. 2. MC Ben Brar 6 (Will Calverley, Filip Forsmark), ev, 16:55. Third Period: 3. MC Mac Welsher 4 (Mark Hillier), ev, 11:03. Shots: MC 10-8-5--23; SHU 8-11-2--21 Saves: MC Ollas (60:00) 21/21; SHU Lush (60:00) 20/23 Power Play: MC 1 for 4; SHU 0 for 3 Penalties: Merrimack 3-9:00; Sacred Heart 5-21:00 Attendance: 890