Merrimack surrenders two-goal lead but comes back to beat Holy Cross in overtime
WORCESTER, Mass. — Merrimack and Holy Cross smacked each other around on Tuesday night in a game that had the emotions and physicality of a playoff series.
The Warriors fell behind 1-0 in the first period, came back to take a 3-1 lead in the third period, watched that lead evaporate in less than a minute after more costly turnovers, and then Alex Jefferies scored his 10th goal of the season to win the game for the Warriors in overtime.
The win capped off a stretch of three games in five days for the Warriors — Merrimack went 3-0 and climbed back to .500 on the season (9-9-1).
"I'm just happy to get the W," said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. "I think, looking back at it, I was asking a lot of our team to schedule these games the way that I did. Our guys delivered tonight. Holy Cross is very good and they are very hard to play against. They're physical. I thought our guys answered the bell even though we didn't have the energy that they had."
Zachary Borgiel was outstanding in net for the Warriors, making 41 saves, which tied his career high. Many of those saves were on the penalty kill. The Crusaders had five power plays in the game — Merrimack had only one — including a five-minute major in the first period and an extended 5-on-3 in the third period.
"He controlled the pace of the game," Borek said. "He held onto pucks when he had to hold onto them. He had a really good sense of his team. He slowed the game down when we needed him to, and he made some big-time saves.
"We've let him hung out to dry a few times in this stretch and he's made huge saves for us. He made some big stops on that 5-on-3 — which was a gift by the officials — and he stepped up."
The two goals Merrimack surrendered in the third, in which they coughed up a two-goal lead, were instances where the Warriors left Borgiel hung out to dry.
"On one, we had a guy look over his shoulder to see who was going to support him, and he let the puck by him, and it goes in the net," Borek said. "Another player over-handles the puck in the middle of the rink. Both things can't happen, and they both know it. But I give our guys a lot of credit. A month ago, we would have lost that game. But today, we found a way to win. I think it's the kind of win we needed.
"We've grown as a group. Early in the year, we give up two goals in the third like that, and I think we hang our heads, and we probably get angry with the guys who made individual mistakes. But the whole game is a game of individual mistakes. We all make them, coaches included. I like the way we stuck by our teammates and rallied."
Lines shake up with Welsher out
The Warriors lost Mac Welsher early in the game to a lower-body injury. With him down, Borek shook up his lines. Nikita Borodayenko, who was the extra forward, centered a line and Filip Forsmark was moved onto the line with Alex Jefferies and Matt Copponi.
"We had to mix things up," Borek said. "Mac is a driver for us, so it was a big loss. Nikita hasn't played a lot of the middle for us but he looked good there. Our guys up the middle tonight — all of them — did a good job."
Early struggles still apparent
The Warriors allowed the first goal of the game for the ninth time this season. They've allowed 14 first-period goals in their last 13 games after not allowing a first-period goal in the first six games.
"Today I think it was an energy thing," Borek said. "Holy Cross plays North for 200 feet. They never stay in the zone with the puck long. The minute someone touches it, it's glass and out. It's hard to play that way and it's hard to play against. We gave up some stuff in the middle of the rink early and we needed to be better there."
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