UConn snaps Merrimack's winning streak
NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack’s seven-game winning streak came to an end last night in a 5-1 defeat against UConn. The Huskies, who are off to their best start in program history (11-3-3) finished the night ranked No. 8 in the Pairwise (the spot held by the Warriors entering the night). Merrimack (10-4) dropped from eighth to No. 11 in the Pairwise.
The Warriors scored first on a goal from Alex Jefferies in the first period. Jefferies, who is Merrimack’s leader in points, extended his point streak to six games. But UConn scored three unanswered to close out the game, including a pair of power-play goals.
“I liked our team, and I liked their team,” said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. “Both teams played hard and (UConn) was very opportunistic. They get in foot races and they’re tough to beat in open space. I thought they had some great looks in the third period. We had a lot of shots, but we couldn’t get that second shot and we couldn’t touch rebounds. We just couldn’t get to it.”
Merrimack goaltender Hugo Ollas had his shutout streak snapped at 170:48 when Samu Salminen scored a power-play goal at the 6:48 mark of the second period.
“He’s calm, which makes our team calm,” Borek said. “He doesn’t run around. He settles everything down. He’s feeling his game right now, which is nice. He’s an unbelievable young man and to see him having some success is fun for everyone in our room.
“Right now, both of our goalies - Hugo and Zach (Borgiel) - have gotten us through some things. Zach had a big 5-on-3 penalty kill at BC a few weeks ago. Those two guys are a huge part of what we do.”
Felton and Forsmark return from IR
Senior forward Filip Forsmark and junior defenseman Christian Felton both returned from injuries last night. Forsmark missed Merrimack’s game against Holy Cross last week after he was hurt in a Nov. 17 game at Sacred Heart. Felton had been out of the lineup since Nov. 3 and missed five games with his injury.
Forsmark played alongside regular linemates Ben Brar and Will Calverley. Felton was paired with Slava Demin and finished the game with a plus-1 rating.
“Hopefully we have them both on Friday,” Borek said. “(Forsmark) is a senior and Felton is a junior, they’ve both played a lot of hockey for us and whoever goes into those spots when they’re out is just less experienced. That’s a problem in games like this one. It was great for our bench to have those guys back and available to us. It made a difference."
Felton’s return was earlier than Borek expected.
“I was surprised, but in a good way,” he said. “Hopefully he comes out of tonight healthy. He’s a very good player, and he’s important to us.”
The Warriors and Huskies meet again Friday
The home-and-home series will wrap up on Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
“We know we’re underdogs in most of the games we play so we’ll be dialed in,” Borek said. “Getting dialed in for Hockey East games is not a problem.”
UConn 3, Merrimack 1 at Lawler Arena Connecticut (10-3-3): 0-1-2--3 Merrimack (10-3-0): 1-0-0--1 First Period: 1. MC Alex Jefferies 5 (Ottoville Leppanen, Slava Demin), ev, 6:41. Second Period: 2. UC Samu Salminen 2 (Matthew Wood, Hudson Schandor), pp, 6:48. Third Period: 3. UC Jake Pervical 5 (Ryan Tverberg, Roman Kinal), ev, 6:21; 4. UC Nick Capone 6 (Justin Pearson, John Spetz), pp, 17:42. Shots: Merrimack 8-12-9--29; UConn 8-9-10--27 Saves: MC Ollas (57:59) 24/27; UC Sergeev (60:00) 28/29 Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 5; UConn 2 for 5 Penalties: Merrimack 5-10; UConn 5-10 Attendance: 2,857