After winning the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fl., and splitting a series with Mercyhurst in Portland, Me. and Orono, the University of Maine Black Bears went to Merrimack College for the first of three straight games against the Warriors. Merrimack beat UMaine 6-0 in the lone contest at Merrimack, and the first home series of the spring semester provided a chance for the Black Bears to redeem themselves.
The Warriors came into the Alfond Arena Friday night and fought to a 1-1 tie before taking the series with a 3-2 victory Saturday night. With the results this weekend, UMaine goes 0-2-1 in their three straight games against the Warriors and is still winless at home.
UMaine and Merrimack tie 1-1 in series opener
UMaine senior forward Kyle Beattie and Merrimack College sophomore defenseman Dan Kolomatis both scored one goal a piece while UMaine junior goaltender Martin Ouellette and Merrimack junior goaltender Sam Marotta saved 26 and 32 shots respectively as the Black Bears and Warriors tied 1-1 on Friday night.
The first period was a quiet one, with Merrimack outshooting the Black Bears eight to seven with only one penalty called.
“It was like the first couple rounds of a heavyweight fight. It was like they were feeling each other out, and there wasn’t a lot going on,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said.
“We were a little tentative. We were a little nervous. I thought we played with a lot more poise starting in the second all the way into overtime,” UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead said.
Merrimack had control of the puck for the majority of the period, but UMaine senior forward Joey Diamond gave the Black Bears a couple of excellent scoring opportunities in front of the Warrior net.
With 8 minutes gone in the period, Diamond streaked down the right side and passed to the center but forward Ben Hutton could not control the pass. Diamond ended the period with three shots on goal to lead the Black Bears.
Merrimack sophomore forward Kyle Singleton provided UMaine a five-on-four advantage when he was caught tripping 16:54 into the first period. However, UMaine’s 9 percent power-play efficiency didn’t fare well when the Warriors cleared the puck every time the Black Bears brought it over the blue line.
The action picked up in the second period, with UMaine freshman forward Devin Shore gaining a one on one right away. Shore started on the right side and moved over to the left side of the net. Marotta stuck his leg pad out at the last second to prevent the Black Bears from taking a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors didn’t waste any time taking advantage of their own scoring opportunity when they went on the power play, 1:16 into the period, after UMaine sophomore defenseman Jake Rutt was called for interference.
Just as the power play expired, Merrimack junior forward Shawn Bates assisted Kolomatis 3:16 into the period to put the Warriors up 1-0.
“It all started with [Merrimack freshman forward John Gustafsson], he passed it to me for an outlet, I skated up the ice and dished it off to [Bates], it may have hit off his skate, came back through the defender’s legs and off my stick,” Kolomatis said. “I saw a little hole on the short side. I didn’t see anyone coming up for a rebound, so I thought I’d just shoot it.”
UMaine had their own power-play opportunity to score, 11:39 into the period, when Merrimack sophomore forward Josh Myers went into the penalty box.
UMaine senior forward Adam Shemansky had the best shot-on-goal opportunity, with a wide-open slapshot, but it hit the right post. The score remained at 1-0.
The Black Bears’ equalizer would come by way of a Beattie drive-in and shoot from the right side in the third period.
Midway through the period, Beattie skated past the Warrior defenders and slipped one past Marotta, tying the game at one goal apiece.
“I was trying to get [Diamond] on the far side; he was pretty open. The goalie stuck his stick out, and the puck hit it, and it ended up going in,” Beattie said.
“It was a nice play. I think he meant to do it. He came in on the right side, hit it against my chest, it ping-ponged around myself and it ended up in the back of the net,” Marotta said.
With neither team able to score a game winner in regulation, the Black Bears and Warriors went into overtime. Each team went on the power play in the extra period.
Just over a minute into overtime, Diamond was called for hitting from behind, but UMaine killed the penalty off with no harm done.
Diamond came back on the ice and provided the best chance for the Black Bears to get their first home win of the season. With a three-on-two developing, Diamond took the puck from the right side of the net to the left and looked to have an opening to attempt a shot, but Diamond chose to keep possession and try a wrap around, which Marotta saved.
“Really hard fought game, I guess we’ll take any points we can get at this point. We fought back, we were down one nothing, got the equalizer, I thought we were going to get that game winner a couple times, especially that one time in overtime,” Whitehead said.
Kolomatis went to the box for Merrimack with 45 seconds to play, but the Warriors successfully killed the penalty and preserved the 1-1 tie.
“There was a time where Merrimack getting a point at the Alfond Arena was worth dying for, so a point is a point,” Dennehy said.
“Any point in the Hockey East is a point won, but of course you’d like to have two points there,” Moratta said.
Merrimack Picks up win in Game 2
Merrimack junior forward Rhett Bly scored the Warrior’s game-winning goal during a four on four with 10:53 to play in the third period to help give the Merrimack a 3-2 victory over the University of Maine Black Bears.
“I thought we played really well for large stretches of the game,” Dennehy said. “Even though it got a little scattered on the ice our guys, especially our older guys like Mike Collins, did a really good job of settling guys down. I thought we played great all weekend.”
“Merrimack got out to a couple leads, and we just couldn’t hang with them. I thought we fought hard but it just wasn’t good enough to win. Merrimack’s systems were on point, and we just couldn’t get anything today,” UMaine sophomore forward Connor Leen said.
After a slow start the night before, the first period was action packed. The Black Bears had more opportunities to score, but ultimately Merrimack was able to pull ahead with a goal before the first intermission.
Shore had two excellent opportunities to put the Black Bears up early in the period. Shore was open for a slap shot on the right side and hit the puck off the post and Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta recovered the rebound.
Diamond and Merrimack junior defenseman Jordan Heywood picked up penalties to make a four on four 12:52 into the first period. Once again, Shore had another wide-open shot but this time missed wide left.
After Diamond left the box, he teamed up with sophomore forward Stu Higgins on a two-on-one against Bates, but Bates used his stick to knock the puck away from Higgins on the pass from Diamond at the last moment.
With 17:46 gone in the first period, Merrimack went on a five-on-three power play after UMaine senior defenseman Mark Nemec and Shemansky were sent to the box. A member of the UMaine penalty kill team, freshman forward Steven Swavely, broke his stick leaving only two UMaine players with sticks during the penalty kill.
Merrimack senior defenseman Kyle Bigos was left open for a slapshot from the left side and he fired it past Ouellette to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead 18:36 into the first period.
The Warriors wasted no time in the second period and extended their lead only 39 seconds in. Collins and freshman forward Brian Christie assisted Heywood and as Merrimack took a 2-0 lead.
Merrimack had another opportunity to score 13 minutes in when sophomore forward Clayton Jardine and sophomore forward Josh Meyers had a two-on-one, but Jardine missed wide left.
With three penalties called on the Warriors during the period, the Black Bears had three power-play opportunities. UMaine appeared apprehensive during their power plays, attempting barely any shots with their one-man advantage.
During the final 2 minutes of the period, UMaine’s offense came alive while short-handed. After a boarding call sent senior forward Kyle Beattie to the penalty box, Diamond intercepted a pass and had nobody in front of him on his way to the net. Diamond shot the puck past Moratta with 1 minute left the second period to make the score 2-1.
After UMaine intercepted another puck, Shore had a similar opportunity butmisfired. Nevertheless, it appeared UMaine had momentum in their favor as they were going into the second intermission after aggressive penalty kill.
The third period proved to be an exciting final chapter to the weekend series.
UMaine freshman forward Ryan Lomberg and Merrimack junior defenseman Tom McCarthy were sent to the box 9:17 into the period, setting up a four on four.
Just over a minute later, Merrimack junior forward Mike Collins and Bigos supplied the assist for Bly to give Merrimack a 3-1 lead.
“Last night was a Hockey East game,” Collins said. “There were bumps, there were bounces, and things aren’t going to go your way every night. For the most part I thought we put in a good effort tonight. When it came down to it, we got the job done.”
Collins finished with three assists on the night.
With under 5 minutes to play, Leen scored his sixth goal of the season, off an assist from Diamond and senior defenseman Mike Cornell, to make the score 3-2.
“It just kind of popped out to me and I was able to get a stick on it and head it towards the net, and it took a good bounce on its way,” Leen said.
UMaine pulled Ouellette with 30 seconds to play, but it was to no avail as the Warriors held on and went home with three points on the weekend.
“We’re disappointed with the result, it was a hard-fought game and the guys battled hard, but we couldn’t find the equalizer,” Whitehead said. “It’s tough when you’re fighting from behind, particularly in a year where you don’t have a lot of offense. We don’t want to get into a game where you’re playing from behind. When we made it 2-1, there was a potential for a huge momentum swing but unfortunately it was at the end of the period. Having said that, Leen’s goal had the potential of another huge shift but with Swavely’s penalty, it was just bad timing. I thought we were going to get the equalizer in the last 5 minutes, but unfortunately we didn’t get that opportunity,”
UMaine falls to 5-14-4 on the year and will head to Boston College for a two-game series next weekend. Merrimack improves to 9-9-5 and will face the University New Hampshire in their next set of games.