The #19 River Hawks (13-9-2, 7-6-2 HE) held off three third period goals by the Merrimack Warriors (7-13-0, 4-9-0 HE) to emerge with a 5-4 victory in the Tsongas Arena on Friday night. Senior defenseman Jeremy Dehner (Madison, WI) scored a goal and three assists to propel UMass Lowell to the win.
OTHER LINKS: Jeremy Dehner and Blaise MacDonald Postgame Audio
David Vallorani (Hamilton, Ont.) opened the game in a big way, reeling off his eighth goal of the season only 39 seconds into regulation. The puck was wrapped around the boards in the River Hawks' zone and Patrick Cey (Saskatoon, Sask.) stopped it along the far-side. Cey sent a pass across the ice to Dehner driving through neutral zone. Dehner quickly flipped it to Vallorani who skated in and put one past Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) from about 10 feet out.
The score remained stagnate through the first period, but would balloon on the heels of four second period goals, starting with a score by Merrimack. Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) and Jesse Todd (Calgary, Alb.) set up Brandon Brodhag (Brooklyn Park, MN) for a power play score at 6:17 into the second period. The goal was Brodhag's sixth of the season and knotted the score at 1-1.
UMass Lowell answered quickly with three consecutive goals in a span of just over eight minutes. First, Kory Falite (Billerica, MA) went five-hole on Cannata for a rebound goal at 10:04. Captain Ben Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, CO) shot from the far post and was stuffed by Cannata, but Falite swooped in on the weak-side for the goal. Falite's 12th score of the season shifted the lead back in the River Hawks' favor, 2-1.
Paul Worthington (Penndel, PA) was next at the 12:31 mark, finding himself on the receiving end of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Maury Edwards (Rocky Rapids, Alb.). Dehner sent the puck from the point to Edwards at the top of the far circle. With the defense pulled towards the sharpshooter, Edwards sent it to Worthington on the weak-side and he lifted it top shelf to avoid the sweeping leg pad of Cannata.
UMass Lowell then extended its lead to 4-1 on Falite's second goal of the night at 18:19 into the second. Ryan Blair (Ashburn, VA) shifted the puck from deep in River Hawk territory to Michael Scheu (Buffalo, NY) on the near boards. Scheu chipped the puck into the Warriors' zone and Falite shot at Cannata's far side, with the puck hitting the leg pad and then trickling over the top and in.
The game appeared well in hand when Dehner scored a power play goal at 8:13 into the third period, further extending UMass Lowell's lead to 5-1. Falite took a shot from the far circle and the weak-side rebound found its way to Dehner for the put-back.
From out-of-reach to within their grasp, Merrimack shocked the River Hawks with a score merely 11 seconds later. Off of a face-off, Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) crossed goaltender Nevin Hamilton (Ashland, MA) at the last second for Chris Barton (Calgary, Alb.) to bury the puck into the mesh. Barton's 11th goal of the year, and a sign of things to come, cut the River Hawks' lead to 5-2.
A few minutes later, Brodhag picked up his second goal of the night on a well-executed tic-tac-toe play by the Warriors. Todd sent the puck down to Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL) on the near post and he redirected it to Brodhag on the far-side. With over eight minutes remaining in the game, it was suddenly only a two-score lead.
Merrimack's Barton answered the call once more as the Warriors found themselves on a six-on-four power play in the final minute. Da Costa and Karl Stollery (Camrose, Alb.) found an unguarded Barton who roofed his 12th goal of the year inside the short-side post. Despite 45 seconds remaining on the clock and only a one-goal lead, UMass Lowell held off the extra-skater attack to preserve the win down the stretch.
Even with four goals allowed, Hamilton improved to 6-3-2 on the year as he stopped 33-of-37 shots on net. Merrimack's Cannata made 25 saves of his own, but came up short as he fell to 3-9-0 on the campaign.
For the night, the River Hawks finished two-for-five on the power play, while the Warriors were two-for-three with the man advantage. Merrimack outshot UMass Lowell, 37-30, in the game.
Both teams will skate on home ice on Saturday night as the River Hawks welcome Boston College to the Tsongas Arena and the Warriors return to the Lawler Rink for a battle with Providence. Both games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.