BOSTON NATIVE COLLINS POTS WARRIORS' LONE GOAL IN FROZEN FENWAY SATURDAY
BOSTON – With the game scoreless near the midway point of the third period, Boston native and senior forward Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) appropriately found the back of the net in one of the most iconic stadiums in America, helping the Merrimack College men's ice hockey team skate to a 1-1 draw against No. 4/5 Providence College in both sides' first-ever appearance in Citi Frozen Fenway on Saturday afternoon at historic Fenway Park.
Score: Merrimack 1, #4/5 Providence 1
Records: Merrimack (4-9-3) | Providence (13-3-4)
Location: Fenway Park | Boston, Mass.
How It Happened
Playing in its first outdoor game in a quarter of a century and in front of the largest crowd ever in program history (31,569), Merrimack made every one of the 65 minutes played on Saturday count, enjoying one of the most unique backdrops for a collegiate hockey game this season while battling the elements and the ice conditions against one of the top teams in the country in Providence.
Both sides skated to through 40 minutes of back-and-forth hockey, with the Warriors holding a slim 20-17 advantage in shot attempts at the conclusion of two periods. With the game falling at the conclusion of one of the more frigid – and snowy – three-day stretches in recent memory for the region, game-time temperatures hovered in the 20s and fell as day progressed, and the playing surface reflected that grittiness.
Merrimack had a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the second frame after junior Connor Toomey (Billerica, Mass.) was tripped from behind while skating in on a breakaway. The Warriors were awarded their first penalty shot opportunity since Feb. 22, 2009 – coincidentally enough also against Providence – but Toomey's 1-on-1 chance against Providence netminder Nick Ellis sailed wide, keeping the game scoreless heading to the third.
With the decision made to play a pair of 10-minute halves in the final period due to playing conditions, both sides tried to generate momentum in the third. A bevy of penalties five minutes into the period eventually rewarded Merrimack a 4-on-3 power-play opportunity, and the Warriors cashed in to take the game's first lead.
Sophomore Vinny Scotti (Vineland, N.J.) started the initial play with a give-and-go feed to senior Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, British Columbia), whose initial shot was saved by Ellis. The senior blueliner managed to get the puck back on the rebound and found Collins in the near circle, who cashed in moments later for his fourth goal and team-leading 12th point of the season, giving the Navy and Gold the lead at 7:23 of the final stanza.
Penalty trouble came back to haunt Merrimack two minutes later, though. After fending off the first three Providence power plays of the game, the Friars finally came through at 9:49 of the third, as Steven Shamanski deked around junior Rasmus Tirronen (Espoo, Finland) and tapped it home on the backhand to tie the match up with just over 10 minutes to play in regulation.
Both teams were given late power-play opportunities to try and set up a dramatic finish; first, Providence went on the man advantage at 17:25, but the Friars were unable to cash in. Then, Kevin Rooney was whistled for a goaltender interference call with 21 seconds left in the third, sending the Warriors to overtime with 1:41 of a power play remaining.
The sudden-victory overtime session would see neither side generate much as far as scoring chances go; the Friars recorded all three shots in overtime, but Tirronen was up to the task, pushing the Warriors to a 1-1 draw while extending their unbeaten streak to three games (1-0-2).
A Closer Look
- Tirronen finished the night with 32 saves, one ahead of Ellis' 31
- Collins led all players with six shot attempts; for Providence, Derek Army totaled a team-high five shots
- The Friars, who were outshot by a 20-17 margin after two periods, finished with a 33-32 edge in attempts when all was said and done
- Both sides finished with a power-play goal; Merrimack finished 1-for-4, while the Friars went 1-for-5 on the man advantage
- The Friars' power-play goal snapped a streak of 16 straight penalties killed by Merrimack, dating back to Nov. 23 at Northeastern
- Toomey's penalty shot was the first for Merrimack since Feb. 22, 2009 – when Jeff Velleca was also unsuccessful against Providence in an eventual 1-1 draw at Schneider Arena
- Merrimack finished the night with a slim 40-39 edge in faceoffs
Merrimack will continue non-conference action next weekend when it makes the long trek to Potsdam, N.Y., to tackle ECAC foe Clarkson University in a two-game series. Puck drop both nights (Friday/Saturday Jan. 10-11) is set for 7 p.m.