NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) made 40 saves as #8 Merrimack played to a 1-1 tie with the University of New Hampshire Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack (15-7-6, 11-6-4 HEA) opens a big home-and-home series with #5 Boston College beginning Friday at Conte Forum at 7 p.m. and concluding Saturday at Lawler Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday's game is sold out, but tickets remain for the game at BC Friday.
With the tie, Merrimack is tied with Maine for fourth place but has the season series and a game in hand on the Black Bears. The Warriors trail BU and BC by just one point for second and are two points behind Lowell for first.
Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) scored the lone goal for Merrimack, as UNH outshot the Warriors 41-35.
In a first period in which UNH outshot the Warriors 14-12, it was Velleca who scored first as he tallied his seventh of the year with 24.7 seconds left in the period. Jesse Todd (Calgary, AB) drove hard to the net to the right of goaltender Casey DeSmith, and his shot was deflected into the slot through traffic and right to Velleca, who buried the rebound blocker side.
The Wildcats tied it at 15:32 of the second as Grayson Downing gathered a rebound in front of Cannata after a wrister from Trevor Van Riemsdyk was redirected by Greg Burke. It was Downing's ninth of the year, tying the game after two, with UNH holding a 27-20 advantage on the shots after 40 minutes. UNH had the better scoring chances in the second, including a point-blank shot in front of Cannata's crease by Austin Block, but the Hobey Baker nominee was there to make the stop.
The teams combined for 22 shots in the third, with Merrimack outshooting the Wildcats 12-10, but Cannata and DeSmith stood tall.
The line of Justin Mansfield (Arlington, MA), Rhett Bly (Regina, SK) and Kyle Singleton (Beaverton, OR) had a pair of great chances early in the third, but the freshman netminder was up to the challenge. Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, CO) had a pair of chances, including a great shot with 5:29 left in the third, but DeSmith knocked it aside with his left pad.
Cannata matched DeSmith save-for-save, stopping a one-timer off a shot from Stevie Moses on a two-on-one with 5:29 left.
The teams totaled seven shots in overtime, four from UNH, but Cannata stopped them all, including a blocker stop on John Henrion.
Merrimack improved to 6-1-2 in the second game of back-to-backs this season and to 3-1-6 in overtime. The Warriors also improved to 4-1-3 when Cannata stopped 40 or more shots in his outstanding career.
Cannata also moved into first in Merrimack's record books in minutes played with 6608:35 career minutes, passing Jim Hrivnak (6594).
In a game that featured only six penalty minutes, fewest in a Merrimack game this season, UNH was 0-for-2 while the Warriors were 0-for-1 on the man advantage.