Ollas' 34 saves helps Merrimack beat Providence 3-2
NORTH ANDOVER — Hugo Ollas made it look easy.
The Merrimack freshman made 34 saves in his second straight start as the Warriors beat No. 17 Providence 3-2 on Friday night at Lawler Arena.
“He made the saves he should have made all night,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “He never made a save look like a big save, and that’s because he was in a great position. That’s exactly what we need from that position. He delivered.”
Ollas has started three of Merrimack’s last four games. In his last four starts, the Warriors are 3-1 and the New York Rangers draft pick has a 1.80 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage over that stretch.
“I feel like I’m getting into a flow,” Ollas said. “I’ve had to get used to a new rink and the whole team is performing really well.”
This is Ollas’ first season playing on an NHL-sized ice sheet, having played his entire career in his native Sweden on an Olympic-sized ice sheet up until this point. NHL sheets are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide. The Olympic sheet is about 15 feet wider and the same length.
“It creates a lot more traffic,” he said. “There are more shots from everywhere. Back home, the players wait a bit more and shoot it. Here, the players will shoot it from anywhere.”
The Warriors fell behind in the final seconds of the first period when Parker Ford scored on the power play with just four seconds left on the clock.
Merrimack’s power play would get the Warriors back in the game midway through the second period. Providence’s David Bunz was called for high-sticking. Filip Karlsson-Tagtstrom scored with the extra attacker on the ice before the Friars were able to touch the puck to tie the game.
Then on the power play, Liam Walsh was set up on the far post and one-timed a pass from Ben Brar past Jaxson Stauber to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
“Our power play went over the boards and had no pressure because we had just scored,” Borek said. “We made a couple of really nice plays to keep get the puck. It was big because early on it looked like their goaltender was going to have a big night. He looked really confident and comfortable. I don’t think we were getting enough traffic in front of him and then we scored those two goals and that put them on their heels a little bit. Pushing back against a team like that is important.”
“One call cost us two goals in the game,” said Providence head coach Nate Leaman. “But we weren’t mentally tough in those situations. Then after that, I was really upset with how many times we missed the net on our looks tonight. We had some great looks throughout the game.”
Declan Carlile extended Merrimack’s lead to 3-1 in the third period on an impressive individual effort, following up his own shot.
“It was going to be a one-goal game either way and we were fortunate to get that third one,” Borek said.
“I don’t think we were hard enough at the net front,” added Leaman. “They had three goals and they were all from near the crease.”
The game got chippy in the third, with several post-whistle scrums. There was one chain reaction sequence in the third that started when Max Crozier laid a heavy (but clean) hit on Filip Forsmark near the Providence defensive blue line. Forsmark got up and laid a hit on Ford coming out of the zone and then Walsh and Nick Poisson got tied up in a scrum in the neutral zone which resulted in them each going off for roughing.
Leaman later challenged a play in the third period looking for a major penalty after several scrums occurred near the Merrimack net after Ollas made a save.
“I thought we should have been on the power play a lot in the third period,” Leaman said. “You can’t take punches to the head and ask your guys to be disciplined. I thought we should have been on the power play a lot more in the third period.”
The Warriors and Friars will finish the weekend home-and-home series at Schneider Arena in Providence on Saturday at 5:30.
The Warriors climbed up to No. 25 in the Pairwise with the victory while the Friars, who entered the night one spot out of an NCAA Tournament slot, fell one spot to No. 18.
GAME NOTES: Former UNH head coach Dick Umile was in attendance at the game, along with former longtime Merrimack assistant Stu Irving. Irving was an assistant under Ron Anderson and Chris Serino. Several former coaches were together in the Blue Line Club, including Umile, Irving, Bob Gaudet (former Dartmouth head coach), Mike Gilligan (former Vermont women’s coach), Brian McCloskey (former UNH women’s coach), and Bill Bowes (former UNH women’s assistant). … Max Newton went under .500 on faceoffs (10-17) for the first time this season. … Providence’s Parker Ford and Kohen Olischefski went a combined 31-11 on draws. … Newton and Liam Walsh took 46 of the game’s 63 faceoffs for Merrimack. … Mike Brown went down in the game and played only limited minutes in the third period.
NEXT: The teams will both head down to Schneider Arena tomorrow for a 5:30 p.m. faceoff to close out the home-and-home series. Tomorrow’s game will be the final regular-season meeting between the Warriors and Friars this season.
Merrimack 3, #17 Providence 2 at Lawler Arena Providence (15-8-1): 1-0-1--2 Merrimack (9-10-1): 0-2-1--3 First Period: 1. PC Parker Ford 11 (Brett Berard, Max Crozier), pp, 19:56. Second Period: 2. MC Filip Karlsson-Tagtstrom 3 (Max Newton, Filip Forsmark), ea, 6:27; 3. MC Liam Walsh 3 (), pp, 8:19. Third Period: 4. MC Declan Carlile 4 (Alex Jefferies, Max Newton), ev, 5:34; 5. PC Michael Callahan (Max Crozier, Nick Poisson), ea, 17:45. Shots: Merimack 4-9-8--21; Providence 9-9-18--36 Saves: MC Ollas (60:00) 34/36; PC Stauber (58:35) 18/21 Penalties: Merrimack 6-12:00; Providence 3-6:00 Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 2; Providence 1 for 5 Attendance: 1,587 (2,549)