NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – With both teams scoreless at the break, the 12th-ranked and top-seeded Merrimack men's soccer team scored twice in the span of five minutes en route to a second-half surge of three goals in 15 minutes to help the Warriors down eighth-seeded AIC, 3-1, in the Northeast-10 Championship Quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Martone-Mejail Field.
Tying a program record while extending its unbeaten streak to 12 consecutive games, the Warriors (13-2-2) advance to the semifinal round and will host fifth-seeded Franklin Pierce on Friday night at home, while the Yellow Jackets see their season likely come to an end at 5-11-2 overall.
After neither side could find the back of the net in the first half despite 11 shot attempts between both teams, the Warriors scored early and often in the opening seven minutes of the second half, and despite an AIC goal in the 57th minute to cut the lead in half, the home side responded with their third goal of the game minutes later to regain the two-goal edge and cruise to their first playoff victory since the 2007 season.
Freshman back Ronald Ried (Schwendi, Germany) redirected a long throw-in from sophomore Michael Buraczynski (Littleton, Mass.) just 1:30 into the second half, as the latter's toss came from the right side of the field about 25 yards out before flicking off Ried's head through traffic and into an open net on the left side.
That lead doubled just five minutes later, as this time Buraczynski – who did not see any action as a freshman in 2011 – garnered his first career goal in the 52nd minute, heading home a clean corner kick service from senior Franklin Lemus Pena (Revere, Mass.) into the right side of the net to make it 2-0 in favor of the home side at 51:13.
AIC did claw to within a goal in the 57th minute, as Kevin Pereira pushed in a rebound into an open net after the initial shot by Conor Doyle was stopped. After deliberation from the officials, it was ruled that the play occurred onside and the goal stood, as the Yellow Jackets cut the deficit to 2-1.
But less than three minutes later, the Warriors bounced right back ahead as senior back Olof Lindhe (Stockholm, Sweden) blasted a through ball from junior Francis Mulkern (Scituate, Mass.) into the right side of the twine to run up the Warrior lead to 3-1 with just more than 30 minutes to play.
That edge was maintained over the remainder of the second half, as the Warriors withstood a few late AIC chances while sophomore goalkeeper Jose Silva (Northborough, Mass.) finished with seven stops in net for the home side to preserve the win. Jason Ryan posted three saves for the visitors in a losing effort.
Merrimack owned the battle in shot attempts with an 18-14 advantage on the game, although the visitors did push eight shots on target, with Frazer Cronin leading the way with five attempts and four on net. Lindhe led all Warriors with two shots on goal.
Both sides combined for 31 fouls (20-11 Merrimack), while the Warriors were awarded all four corner kicks in the game.
Next up, Merrimack plays host to the fifth-seeded Franklin Pierce Ravens, who cruised in a minor upset over fourth-seeded Bentley to earn a spot in the NE-10 Championship Semifinals. Merrimack won the only meeting this season in Rindge, N.H., 1-0, and will be looking for a spot in the NE-10 Championship Finals for the first time since the 2007 season.