After a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the No. 1 Boston College Eagles on Friday, the UMass Minutemen probably figured things couldn’t possibly get any worse Saturday night against No. 12 Merrimack. Little did they realize there was a buzz saw waiting for them in North Andover.
While the four Boston Beanpot teams had the night off Saturday, the No. 12 Warriors (17-5-4; 11-5-3 Hockey East) continued to prove that they’ll be a team to be reckoned with late in the season, overwhelming the Minutemen (6-15-4; 5-10-4 Hockey East) 11-2 before 2,008 at Lawler Arena. The 11 goals are the most for a Merrimack team since the Warriors defeated Boston College 11-5 on Feb. 15, 1997.
Not only are the Warriors riding a sizzling streak of nine wins in their past 10 games, but the 17 wins this season is a high-water mark in Merrimack’s Hockey East history.
The Warrior attack was led by Chris Barton, who tallied five points (two goals, three assists) on the night. Five other Warriors (Ryan Flanigan, Stephane Da Costa, Brendan Ellis, Adam Ross and Brandon Brodhag) record three-point nights, as Merrimack moved into a third-place tie in Hockey East alongside Boston University.
Despite the final score, it was actually a close game for most of the first period, as Minuteman Daniel Hobbs’ strike at 16:44 neutralized the 1-0 lead that Fraser Allen gave the Warriors at 6:39. But two late-period goals by Merrimack’s Joe Cucci and Barton started to tilt the ice in favor of the home squad.
Four unanswered goals by Merrimack in the middle stanza blew the game wide open. By the time Minuteman Chase Langeraap cut the score to 7-2 at the 15:26 of the second, Merrimack had already chased UMass starting goaltender Paul Dainton (20 shots, six goals allowed) from the game. Minuteman Jeff Teglia, Dainton’s replacement, didn’t fair much better, surrendering five goals on 21 shots.
Third-period goals by Jesse Todd, Flanigan, Ellis and Barton rounded out the scoring and sent the Minutemen limping back to Amherst. UMass Coach Donald “Toot” Cahoon’s squad will need to regroup quickly after being outscored 16-2 on the weekend.
Three UMass goaltenders --Dainton, Teglia and Kevin Moore -- saw action between the pipes. Merrimack’s Joe Cannata recorded 19 saves before giving way to Sam Marotta (six saves) for the final 16:18.
In other local college hockey action on Friday and Saturday:
Boston College 5, UMass 0
The BC Eagles (19-6-0; 15-5-0 Hockey East) celebrated their new status as the No. 1 team in the nation by shutting down the visiting Minutemen 5-0 before 6,821 at Conte Forum on Friday. After senior captain Joe Whitney gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead at 15:33 of the first, sophomore defensemen Philip Samuelsson tallied in the second and third periods to put the game out of reach. BC’s Paul Casey and Cam Atkinson wrapped up the scoring with third-period goals as the Eagles cruised. UMass senior captain Paul Dainton racked up 35 saves before giving way to Jeff Teglia, who recorded another three stops in mop-up duty. BC’s John Muse had little work with 14 saves.
New Hampshire 5, Maine 4
The Wildcats (17-5-4; 15-2-2 Hockey East) solidified their hold on the top spot in Hockey East, sweeping two games and four points from their next-door rivals. But it wasn’t easy. On Saturday, UNH senior Paul Thompson scored with 16 ticks left on the clock for a 5-4 win in a seesaw affair in Durham, N.H. The Black Bears (11-9-6; 8-7-4 Hockey East) had clawed back from deficits of 3-2 and 4-2, but didn't have an answer for Thompson, who potted three goals on the weekend. On Friday, the Wildcats cruised to a 6-3 win, despite a hat trick by Maine’s Gustav Nyquist, with Thompson racking up his 50th career goal and 100th career point. UNH junior Matt DiGirolamo had 65 saves on the weekend, collecting his 16th and 17th wins on the season. For Maine, Shawn Sirman had 22 saves on Saturday, while teammate Martin Ouellette had 19 on Friday.
Boston University 3, UMass Lowell 1
BU coach Jack Parker wanted to make sure his Terriers (13-7-7; 10-5-5 Hockey East) weren’t looking ahead to Monday’s Beanpot match with Boston College. And BU responded with a workmanlike 3-1 win over the River Hawks (4-21-2; 3-17-0 Hockey East). The Terriers opened up a 3-0 lead on goals by Max Nicastro, Garrett Noonan and captain Joe Pereira, and by the time UML’s David Vallorani finally solved BU’s Keiran Millan at 18:26 of the third, the game was out of reach. Millan finished with 30 saves for BU, while UML’s Marc Boulanger had 35 stops for the River Hawks.
Merrimack 4, Northeastern 3 (OT)
Northeastern (8-11-6; 7-8-5 Hockey East) suffered a bit of a speed bump on the way to Monday’s date with Harvard at the TD Garden, when Merrimack’s Joe Cucci tallied an overtime strike to put an end to the Huskies five-game unbeaten streak on Friday. The rough play (14 Merrimack penalties for 55 minutes; 13 NU penalties for 53 penalties) overshadowed a tight contest including Merrimack twice bouncing back from deficits and a tremendous effort by Cucci, who completed his hat trick with only 29 seconds remaining in overtime. Hobey Baker candidates Chris Rawlings of Northeastern (35 saves) and Joe Cannata of Merrimack (23 saves) were again solid in the nets.
Yale 1, Harvard 0
It was a goaltending duel in New Haven on Friday night as No. 2 Yale’s Ryan Rondeau got the better of Harvard’s Ryan Carroll, stopping all 34 shots by the Crimson (4-17-0; 3-13-0 ECAC). Carroll was almost as good, with 34 saves on 35 shots. After two scoreless periods, Yale’s Jimmy Martin got the winner at 5:36 of the third.