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Black Bears split final regular season series against Merrimack

The University of Maine women’s ice hockey faced off against Merrimack College in their final weekend series of the regular season. While the Black Bears dominated the Friday game 5-2, it could not have been more opposite on Saturday as they fell 3-1.

UMaine entered the series sitting at 15-16-2 and played Merrimack last weekend, where they won 1-0 before losing to their rival UVM 3-0. Merrimack entered with a record of 7-24-2 after snapping an 11-game losing streak, winning in a penalty shootout to New Hampshire.

After neither team scored in the first period, it took less than four minutes for the Black Bears to draw first blood in the second when second-year forward Mira Seregély found fellow second-year Alyssa Wruble at the front of the net, whose wrist shot snuck right past first-year goaltender Calli Hogarth. Five minutes later, fourth-year forward Ally Trimper was able to win a fight for the puck on the boards and dish the puck to her twin sister, fellow fourth-year forward Morgan Trimper. Morgan Trimper found first-year forward Anna Caumo, who, just like Wruble, made a sliding wrist shot to go up by two.

Merrimack, however, would not go down quietly as while on the power-play, second-year forward Alexa Pongo scored on the fast-break thanks to assists from fourth-year forward Katie Kaufman and fourth-year defenseman Teghan Inglis to make it a one-score game. However, with four minutes left in the second, UMaine would answer back when first-year forward Lilli Welcke found Seregély near the right circle, who found Welckes’ twin sister, first-year Luisa Welcke, who tapped it past Hogarth for the goal and allowed the Black Bears to take a 3-1 lead going into the third.

The Warriors brought the deficit back to one less than four minutes into the third when, off the power play, first-year defenseman Payten Evans found Inglis. Inglis’ shot missed, but third-year goaltender Jorden Mattison lost it behind, resulting in fourth-year center Madison Oelkers taking the puck, skating it behind and poking it in to cut the deficit back to one.

While Merrimack struck first in the third, they posed no major threat to the Black Bears for the rest of the game as their defense clamped down. Three minutes after the Warriors scored, Wruble scored her second goal of the night as Luisa Welcke found her sister down in the corner. Lilli Welcke then found Wruble for the one-timer right in front of the net to go back up by two. With time running out, Merrimack pulled Hogarth, allowing UMaines’ fifth-year forward Grace Heiting to put the final nail in the coffin with an easy goal to seal the victory.

Third-year goalie Jorden Mattison finished the night saving 28 of 30 shots with an impressive performance overall by the defense. Hogarth also saved 28 shots out of 32, though her defense did not play nearly as well as UMaine’s.

Both teams performed well on the powerplay with them, resulting in both goals scored by the Warriors and three from the Black Bears. UMaine won the faceoff battle going 27-20, with fifth-year forward Alexandra Johnson leading the team going 7-4.

On Saturday, UMaine struggled to make their shots count, and it cost them big time as they were upset 3-1. First-year forward Ava Stevenson was the only Black Bear to score after Luisa Welcke found Johnson, but the puck ricocheted off her stick and Stevenson was right there for the lucky score. However, it was the only lucky moment for UMaine to close out their regular season on a loss.

First-year goaltender Brooklyn Oakes was the goalie for the Black Bears and saved 25 of 28 shots on net. Fourth-year goaltender Emma Gorski was terrific for the Warriors, saving 35 of 36 shots, with the one that got by her being an impossible save.

Neither team was able to score off their power play opportunities as UMaine went 0-2 and Merrimack went 0-4. The Black Bears dominated the faceoffs going 36-27, but it did not amount to anything. Johnson led the team going 12-7.

Even with this loss, UMaine qualified for the Hockey East playoffs, where they will travel to Boston College to face the Eagles in the quarter-finals Saturday Feb. 25.

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