NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Two UNH goals 28 seconds apart in the first period was the difference as the visiting Wildcats handed #6/7 Merrimack a 2-1 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 2,489 at Lawler Arena Friday night.
Merrimack (12-5-5, 8-4-3 HEA) heads to UNH (9-11-2, 6-8-1 HEA) Saturday night for a 7 p.m. faceoff with the Wildcats at the Whittemore Center. The game will be televised locally on WBIN in HD with UNH producing the game. Fans can also listen to the Merrimack broadcast on 1400 AM and at merrimackathletics.com.
The Warriors started strong, outshooting UNH 7-3 early on, but it was the Wildcats who took the early 2-0 lead, scoring twice in a 28-second span to lead 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Grayson Downing scored on a partial breakaway off a bad bounce in the neutral zone at 13:23 for his seventh of the year and drew a hooking call on Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK), which put the Wildcats on the power play immediately after the goal. Stevie Moses then followed with his 17th of the year, redirecting a Brett Kostolansky shot from the point at 13:51.
After the Warriors killed a 5-on-3 for 44 seconds in the second, Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) cut the lead in half beating Casey DeSmith with a wrister at 11:28 for his seventh of the year, with Carter Madsen (Calgary, AB) and Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) getting the assists.
Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) kept it a one-goal game as the Warriors' parade to the penalty box continued throughout the second. UNH outshot Merrimack 18-3, getting seven straight power plays, including four in the second period. But the Hobey Baker nominee made 15 saves with his team shorthanded in the second, highlighted by a point-blank stop on John Henrion from between the circles.
Merrimack finally put a period together in the third, outshooting UNH 12-7, but they couldn't put the puck past DeSmith for the tying marker.
Looking for their fifth goal with the extra attacker on the ice of the year, DeSmith turned aside shots from Flanigan, Mike Collins (Boston, MA) and Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB) in the final minute, and the Wildcats blocked two other attempts before running out the clock in the Merrimack zone.
Merrimack was outshot by the Wildcats 33-25, as Cannata made 31 saves, 17 on the power play.
DeSmith made 24 stops for his third career win and third straight in net for the Wildcats.
For Flanigan, it was his 30th career goal and 70th career point in the loss.
UNH blocked 17 shots in the win, led by Moses who had four.