UMass edges Merrimack one more time
Ed. Note — A version of this story will appear in Tuesday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
AMHERST, Mass. — UMass is the defending national champions. They won their 10th game of the season last night, 4-3, over Merrimack at the Mullins Center and they haven’t lost a game in regulation since Oct. 3 (opening weekend) against Minnesota State.
They’ve also narrowly finished off the Warriors in all four meetings this season.
Back on Oct. 29, Colin Felix scored with 4.4 seconds left to give the Minutemen a 2-1 win. The next night, UMass battled back from an early deficit and Scott Morrow won the game for the Minutemen in overtime.
Last month (Dec. 8), Lucas Mercuri scored with under four minutes left to tie the game and Bobby Trivigno sent the Warriors packing in overtime for a second time this season.
Then last night at the Mullins Center, Merrimack had leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before Morrow and Ryan Lautenbach scored in the third period to give the Minutemen another victory.
“Another disappointment here in Amherst,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “We played well for the most part.”
Both of UMass’ goals in the third period were off of Merrimack miscues. Morrow’s game-tying goal came after a Merrimack defender blew an edge in the neutral zone which created a 2-on-1 opportunity for UMass. The game-winning goal actually deflected off the stick of Merrimack defenseman Zach Uens.
“We have a guy blow a tire that leads to a goal and another one that goes off our own guy,” Borek said. “It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated for our guys because I thought they played a heck of a hockey game.”
The Warriors were outshot 13-10 in the third period and 34-26 in the game. Morrow, who just returned from the World Junior Championships, finished the night with two goals and one assist.
Had the tournament not been canceled last week, it’s likely that Morrow still would have been with Team USA in Alberta.
“We played on our heels too much in the third period,” Borek said. “Especially at the start of the third period. We gave them some momentum and they were able to get a couple of goals off of tough breaks. But at the end of the day, if we aren’t on our heels, I don’t think those bad breaks happen. We have to learn from this. We need to be better at closing out games in the third period. I feel like we’re on our way to being a team that is good at doing that, and I felt that we were very close today to getting that accomplished, but (UMass) is a team that has won a championship and they finish games out. They’ve never out of the game.”
Merrimack’s power play had not scored a goal since Nov. 12, but the Warriors finally broke through on that unit in the second period when Max Newton re-directed a shot in front of UMass goalie Matt Murray (23 saves).
“A lot of that is confidence,” Borek said. “We clearly had more offensive confidence tonight and that led to the power play. It might have helped that we scored seven goals on (Sunday) night. We have good players who have been good power-play players before they got here. So we knew it was just a matter of time.”
GAME NOTES: Newton scored his 10th goal of the season in the second period. … Liam Walsh went 16-5 on faceoffs. … Newton led the Warriors with seven shots on goal. Alex Jefferies posted six shots on goal, as did Filip Forsmark.
NEXT: Merrimack is scheduled to host Clarkson on Friday night at Lawler Arena (7 p.m.). Clarkson was supposed to play at Canisius on Monday night, but that game was canceled due to COVID protocols within the Clarkson program. The Warriors will host St. Lawrence on Saturday night at Lawler Arena.
#9 Massachusetts 4, Merrimack 3 at Mullins Center Merrimack (7-10-1): 1-2-0—3 Massachusetts (10-4-2): 1-1-2—4 First Period: 1. UMA Scott Morrow 7 (Lucas Mercuri), ev, 11:45; 2. MC Logan Drevitch 3 (Matt Copponi, Christian Felton), ev, 17:42. Second Period: 3. MC Filip Forsmark 9 (Liam Walsh), ev, 5:14; 4. UMA Reed Lebster 5 (Ty Farmer, Scott Morrow), ev, 13:40; 5. MC Max Newton 10 (Zach Vinnell, Alex Jefferies), pp, 18:02. Third Period: 6. UMA Scott Morrow 8 (Ryan Lautenbach), ev, 5:14. Shots: Merrimack 6-10-10—26; UMass 9-12-13—34 Saves: MC Borgiel (58:58) 30/34; UMA Murray (60:00) 23/26 Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 4; UMass 0 for 1 Penalties: Merrimack 1-2:00; UMass 4-8:00 Attendance 529 (8,387)