NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After surrendering the tying goal with less than a minute to play in regulation, junior forward Candace Waldie (North Andover, Mass.) buried a cross from senior Jen Otis (Penacook, N.H.), propelling the No. 7 Merrimack field hockey team to a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Bentley in an important Northeast-10 Conference showdown on Tuesday night at Martone-Mejail Field.
Up by a goal, 2-1, the Warriors (9-2, 3-1 NE-10) were on their way to a second straight win before handing the Falcons (4-6, 1-2 NE-10) a penalty corner with a minute to play. The visitors capitalized in the waning moments of the second half, but Waldie and Otis wasted no time to clinch the home side's first overtime win of the season just 1:31 into the sudden-death session.
After peppering Bentley goalkeeper Julia Powell (five saves) with two shots in the first minute, Otis controlled the ball on the right side before flinging a hard cross through the circle and to a waiting Waldie. The team's leading scorer wasted no time in burying the perfect pass, handing the Warriors a win in walk-off fashion.
Both teams battled through a defensive-minded first half with nothing to show on the scoreboard before Bentley scored the game's first marker at 49:39. But the Warriors responded with back-to-back goals within a span of five minutes to put them up by a 2-1 margin that held until the final minute, when the Falcons evened it up.
Merrimack has now swept the season series against Bentley after a previous victory on the raod, 4-1, on Sept. 6 against the previously-10th-ranked Falcons.
Gina Lirange beat Merrimack goalkeeper Kerri Bergquist (Mashpee, Mass.) on a 3-on-1 rush after taking a feed from Sally James, pushing the Falcons ahead by a 1-0 advantage with 20 minutes to play.
But nearly a minute later, senior forward April Daugherty (Wakefield, R.I.) scored on a scramble in front of the net, with an assist coming from Waldie, to draw even at 1-1 in the 51st minute.
Five minutes later, Otis pushed the Warriors ahead after ripping a shot into the back of the cage off a turnover at 55:30 of the second half.
Merrimack continued to press, but Bentley did not back down in the final few minutes of the game and eventually drew a penalty corner with a minute to go. Following a timeout, the Falcons managed to get a shot on net that was initially saved, but Beth Maguire was waiting to score on a rebound to tie the contest at 2-2 and send it to overtime.
The Warriors did not waste any time in promptly ending the match, controlling the first minute of play which eventually led to the game-winner from Waldie.
"That's a great win for our team, and a big conference win," head coach Anne Rounce said afterward. "We were able to gut it out at the end against a good Bentley team, and now we'll turn our attention to preparing for Thursday."
Merrimack outshot Bentley by a 16-6 margin in a game that saw few shot attempts and physical play in between the circles and plenty of blocked shots from both sides. The Warriors also held a 6-2 advantage in penalty corners.
Next up, the Warriors travel to conference foe Franklin Pierce on Thursday, Oct. 4, to continue NE-10 play. First whistle is set for 6 p.m.