Toomey Keeps Home Ice Hopes Alive with OT Winner; Merrimack Downs UMass 4-3
NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Merrimack sophomore Connor Toomey (Billerica, Mass.) kept the Warriors' playoff hosting hopes alive with an overtime goal just 1:45 into the extra frame. Behind Toomey's game-winner, the Warriors defeated the UMass Minutemen by the score of 4-3 in front of the home fans on Senior Night.
With the win, Merrimack now has 29 points and sits in sixth place in the Hockey East standings. In order for the Warriors to host a quarterfinal playoff game, they need the University of New Hampshire to lose to Maine and Boston University to lose to Northeastern coupled with a win over the UMass Minutemen Saturday night.
Merrimack (15-14-6, 13-10-3 HEA) will hit the road for its regular season finale against the UMass Minutemen tomorrow night at 7 pm at the Mullins Center. UMass was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
After allowing three third-period goals to the Minutemen to force overtime, all on extra-attacker goals, Toomey buried his fifth goal of the season after a hard shot in the slot from junior Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, BC) was kicked off the pad of Steve Mastalerz right to Toomey. Toomey's second game-winning goal of the season was assisted by Ellis and Vinny Scotti (Vineland, NJ).
The Warriors dominated the first 20 minutes of action as they outshot the Minutemen 19-10. The Warriors broke through with the opening goal of the game as Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) picked up his eighth goal of the season at the 11:53 mark of the first. Shawn Bates (Ft. Saskatechewan, AB) won the faceoff back to senior John Heffernan (Scituate, Mass.) who fed Heywood for a wrap-around attempt that was saved but he gathered his own rebound and found the back of the net.
The Minutemen came out strong in the second period and outshot the Warriors by the 18-5 margin but they were not able to put one past Sam Marotta (Bridgewater, Mass.). The Warriors killed off all three Minutemen power plays in the second period while only allowing four shots on goal.
John Gustafsson (Ljungby, Sweden) gave the Warriors the 2-0 advantage just 5:56 into the final period as he found a rebound after a Quinn Gould (Fort McMurray, AB) shot and buried his second career marker. Justin Mansfield (Arlington, Mass.) also picked up his fifth assist of the season on the goal.
With 4:01 to play in the third, the Minutemen got on the board with their net empty as Shane Walsh scored his third goal of the season on a scrum in front of the Merrimack net.
The Warriors responded quickly to make the score 3-1 as Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) scored his 16th goal of the season after a nice pass from freshman Brian Christie (West Chester, PA) on a 2-on-1 break for the Warriors. Heywood also picked up an assist on Collins' goal with 3:12 to play in regulation.
Less than a minute later, the Minutemen made the score 3-2 in favor of the home squad as Conor Sheary found the back of the net; and, with 41 seconds to play in the game and the net empty, UMass tied the game at three as Rocco Carzo beat Marotta.
Heywood had a goal and an assist in the game, marking his sixth two-point game of the season.
Marotta finished the game with 37 saves in his 12th win while Mastalerz finished with 32 saves in the losing effort.
Merrimack finished the game going 0-for-1 with three shots on their only power-play chance while the Minutemen finished the game going 2-for-6 with 11 shots on goal on their chances.
Merrimack improves to 9-1-0 over their last 10 games against UMass and an 8-0-0 record at Lawler Arena against the Minutemen in their last eight trips to North Andover.