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Black Bears split weekend series against Merrimack

The University of Maine men’s hockey team (15-10-4) were back in action Friday night, looking to continue their push towards the playoffs. A hat trick by third-year right wing Brendan Robbins and a game winner by second-year defenseman Patrick Holway lifted the Black Bears to a 4-3 win over Merrimack College (8-16-4).

Getting the nod in net for Maine was first-year Jeremy Swayman, who entered the game with a .927 save percentage and allowing 2.48 goals per game.

For Merrimack, third-year Craig Pantano got the start between the pipes. Pantano comes in with a 2.32 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.

A penalty for too many men on the ice called on Maine gave Merrimack an opportunity on the power play. The Black Bears held their own and against the 14th best extra strength attack in the nation.

With 1:28 left in the first period, first-year left wing Emil Westerlund found Robbins in the slot. Robbins poked one past Pantano for his eighth of the season to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead.

Merrimack tied the game early in the second, when fourth-year defenseman Marc Biega sniped one over Swayman’s shoulder, clanging one off the pipe to tie the game at 1-1.

The back-and-forth nature of the game was set when Robbins went for the shorthanded breakaway goal on the Merrimack power play, and was awarded a penalty shot. He put the penalty shot past Pantano to give the Black Bears a 2-1 lead.

“I talked to our goalie coach, he said Pantano likes to back into the net. I decided to go forehand, backhand and elevated the puck. The crowd was going nuts, and I was nervous, couldn’t hear the ref blow the whistle. Luckily it went in,” Robbins said.

As quickly as Maine took the lead, first-year defenseman Brady Keeper went to the penalty box to give the Warriors a five-on-three opportunity. Fourth-year center Brett Seney put one past Swayman to tie the game at 2-2 with another minute to go with the man advantage. Maine was able to kill of the Keeper penalty, but the damage was done.

Maine would go back on the power play at the 11:06 mark, but a scare came out as Merrimack had a breakaway chance of their own. Swayman showed some physical play coming out of the goal to halt them.

Second-year left wing Mitch Fossier appeared to have scored during the last 30 seconds of the man advantage, but the officials had called no goal. A review would confirm the call and the crowd voiced their displeasure.

On another Merrimack power play, Robbins once again went on a fast break. There was no interference this time, and Robbins found a way to put another one past Pantano, clanging one off the post with 2:40 to go in the period to give the Black Bears a 3-2 lead.

The Warriors had another chance on the power play, as Robbins went to the box for a cross checking with 11:32 to go in regulation. Maine did not see this as a problem, as the penalty was easily killed off to keep the score where it stood.

Merrimack was able to pot one, but third-year left wing Michael Babcock barreled into Swayman and the goal was waved off. The call would stand after Warriors head coach Mark Dennehy challenged it.

Merrimack would pull Pantano, and the six on five advantage would pay off as third year center Ludvig Larsson would put one past Swayman with 1:29 to go to tie the game at 3-3.

Overtime would last all of 14 seconds as fourth-year left wing Nolan Vesey wrapped around the goal and found Holway, who fired a one-timer past Pantano for the game winner.

A win is a win in conference play, but there are some issues that the Black Bears will need to fix to complete the sweep.

“I think we could have played an awful lot better. I thought our D-zone coverage left a lot to be desired and we could have shot the puck more. We’re happy with the win, it was a big two Hockey East points, but we know what we need to do tomorrow,” Maine Head Coach Red Gendron said.

“We had two one goal leads in the game, so holding on to those is something we need to work on, especially at home. We have to play a lot better than what we did tonight,” Holway said.

Swayman finished the night with 36 saves, while Pantano ended with 24.

Men’s Hockey falls to Merrimack in Overtime

Merrimack and Maine faced each other for their second game of the weekend series Saturday night, ending the night with a Merrimack victory. Second-year Merrimack forward Sami Tavernier was able to sneak past the Maine defense and score on a break away goal assisted by fourth-year defensemen Jared Kolquist. Tavernier’s goal marked the eighth of his season, and came with 1:24 left in overtime. The France native beat Swayman with a shot to his right side, giving Merrimack the 3-2 victory.

“We made a mistake down low trying to win the game and that’s what lead to Tavernier getting behind us,” Gendron said. “The best part about his game is how well he shoots the puck. He’s got a great shot.”

The scoring started early for Merrimack, who dominated most of the first period. Second-year forward Tyler Drevitch found the back of the net less than six minutes into the opening period. He was assisted by second-year forward Patrick Kramer and fourth-year defensemen Aaron Titcomb. The first period was far from perfect for the Black Bears, who struggled to control the puck and were outshot 15-8.

“We were turning pucks over all over the place,” Gendron said. “Our forwards were flying out too far and too fast.”

Despite the slow start, Maine began to gain momentum at the halfway point of the first frame. They were helped by 14 first period saves from Swayman, who made a couple exceptional saves when Merrimack was on the power play. His play eventually led to Maine getting more chances on their end and they eventually capitalized. Third-year forward Nolan Kesey intercepted the puck off a rebound and sent it ahead to second-year forward Tim Doherty who netted his eighth goal of the season tying the game at 1. Dohertys goal came when Maine had a one-man advantage.

In the second, Merrimack once again found an early groove. While fighting off a power play Seney broke away with the puck and beat Swayman with a similar shot to the one he gave up in overtime, giving the Warriors the 2-1 edge. The goal came less than two and a half minutes into the second.

“I want both those back,” Swayman said in regards to the second and third goals he allowed. “I need to make adjustments so I can stop those kinds of goals.”

Throughout the rest of the period, the team relied on Swayman’s glove to bail them out of further trouble. He notched 12 more saves in the second and shut out Merrimack on three power plays. Maine’s best chance came when first-year forward Eduards Tralmaks was set up for a one-timer but could only find first-year goalie Drew Vogler. The Missouri native played exceptional in net all night and finished with 36 saves total.

Maine had other chances on two power plays, but the game remained scoreless throughout the duration of the second.

In the third, the Black Bears began to gain momentum. They started the third with a flurry of shots on net and outshot Merrimack 19-8 in total. They got two more opportunities on power plays and cashed in on their final one. With less than 10 seconds left on the man advantage, second-year forward Mitchell Fossier took a pass from first-year defensemen Patrick Holloway and rifled one past Vogler, evening the contest at two a piece.

Gendron explained that the team simply started getting more help.  

“We woke up. We got more guys going,” Gendron said.

Holway’s goal proved to be the last in regulation as both goalies continued their strong play for the rest of the third.

Despite the loss, much of Maine’s energy in overtime seemed to have carried over from the third. The team opened with a quick shot on net that was turned away by Vogler. They generated a total of six shots in just over three and a half minutes of play.

Vogler outdueled Swayman in the battle of netminders, making 36 saves to Swayman’s 33.

Merrimack will return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 6 with puck drop slated for 7 p.m against UMass Amherst. As for the Black Bears, it’s a longer break, as they won’t hit the ice until they travel to Providence, Rhode Island to battle the Friars on Friday, Feb. 9.

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