NORTH ANDOVER — Last night’s 3-2 overtime loss against No. 10 UMass at Lawler Arena was Merrimack’s third one-goal game this season against the defending national champions. The Warriors lost all three — two of them now in overtime — with the regulation game between the two teams decided on a goal from Colin Felix with four seconds left two months ago.
“A year ago, we would have been encouraged by the way we played against them,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “But right now? We’re really down. We’re disappointed. I’m disappointed for our team because our guys left it all out there, and that’s all I can ask them to do. We just didn’t finish the job.
“We have a group of guys who have worked really hard to push our program forward in a good direction. This would have been a nice way to finish off the first half in league play. We’ll get stronger and better from it. But this one will be challenging to get over. Our team had a great effort. We just got on our heels in the third period and didn’t get off our heels until they scored.”
Both teams were cautious and careful in the opening seven minutes of the game. There was only one shot tallied by either team in that span. The action picked up when Alex Jefferies was called for hooking at the 7:14 mark of the first period. Then 50 seconds later, teammate Liam Walsh was sent off for a high stick which gave the Minutemen — and their power-play unit that’s converting at better than 20 percent — a 1:16 of 5-on-3 power-play time.
Merrimack was able to kill both penalties, with a few close calls (including a hit post).
Five minutes later, Merrimack grad student Steven Jandric kept his feet moving as he drove toward the net and drew a holding call on Slava Demin. But, with goalie Zachary Borgiel pulled for the extra attacker, Jandric fired a one-timer off a feed from linemate Max Newton which gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
“He gets after it,” Borek said. “He plays a heavy game. His base is so strong that he can explode through guys. If he gets a shoulder down he’s getting to the net.”
The Minutemen tied the game on the power play in the second period off a shot from Matthew Kessel. But the Warriors took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission after Mac Welsher tipped a shot from Declan Carlile with 2:04 remaining in the period.
“Welsher had a great game,” Borek said. “All of our power guys had great games. That’s how you have to play if you want to beat UMass.”
In the third period, the Minutemen were able to pin Merrimack in their own end for an extended period. The Warriors didn’t register a shot attempt for over five minutes, from the 7:04 mark until there was under two minutes left. The extended zone time for the Minutemen resulted in Lucas Mercuri’s game-tying goal with 3:24 left on the clock; Mercuri tipped in a point shot from defenseman Ryan Ufto.
“We had a tough shift and it put us on our heels,” Borek said. “Then we didn’t get off our heels. It snowballed.”
The game went to overtime and Trivigno scored the overtime winner with just 38 seconds left in the extra period.
“We lost a guy there and it goes in the net,” Borek said.
Borek continued, “The difference in this game is that they were just more comfortable in the 2-1 game. That’s how you win championships, and they just won one. Our team has to go through the process and learn how to be better and more comfortable in those situations. It’s another lesson learned, but it’s not an easy one to swallow.”
Merrimack fell to 6-5-0-4 with the loss. The Warriors are 0-4 in overtime games this season but are 6-5 in regulation.
GAME NOTES: Jandric finished the game with six shots on goal, which led both teams. … The Warriors did not register a shot on their final two power plays. … Merrimack lost the faceoff battle for the first time in weeks; UMass went 40 for 68 on the dot and Max Newton was the only Warrior to post a positive winning percentage. … Merrimack entered the third period with a lead for just the second time this season.
NEXT: Merrimack will host the U.S. NTDP U18 team in an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Lawler Arena. UMass is off through Christmas, and will next play on Dec. 31 at Union.
Ed. Note — A version of this story will appear in Thursday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune.
#10 UMass 3, Merrimack 2 (OT) at Lawler Arena Massachusetts (7-2-3-3): 0-1-1-1—3 Merrimack (6-5-0-4): 1-1-0-0—2 First Period: 1. MC Steven Jandric 3 (Max Newton, Zach Uens), ea, 13:04 Second Period: 2. UMA Matthew Kessel 3 (Aaron Bohlinger, Cam Donaldson), pp, 9:13; 3. MC Mac Welsher 2 (Declan Carlile, Jake Durflinger), ev, 17:56. Third Period: 4. UMA Lucas Mercuri (Ryan Ufko, Ryan Lautenbach), ev, 6:36. Overtime: 5. UMA Bobby Trivigno (Scott Morrow), 3v3, 4:16. Shots: Merrimack 10-13-8-1—32 ; UMass 12-4-8-3—27 Saves: MC Borgiel (64:04) 24/27 ; UMA Murray (64:04) 30/32 Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 4 (5 shots); UMass 1 for 5 (8 shots) Penalties: Merrimack 6-12:00; UMass 5-10:00 Attendance: 2,122 (2,549)