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Freshman Shawn Bates had the game-winner and an assist for the Warriors
NASHVILLE, TN - Participating in the first-ever college hockey game in the state of Tennessee, Shawn Bates (Fort Saskatchewan, AB) scored the game-winner, as 15th-ranked Merrimack scored four times in the third, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to defeat Alabama-Huntsville 5-4 for its fourth straight win at the Bridgestone Arena Friday night.
Merrimack (11-4-4) and Alabama-Huntsville (3-20-2) will conclude the series Saturday at 1 p.m. central time as part of a doubleheader. The Nashville Predators will take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the nightcap at 7 p.m.
With time winding down in the third, Rhett Bly (Regina, SK) fed a streaking Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) down the left side, who fired it on net and the rebound was knocked in by Bates for his fifth of the year at 16:15 of the third.
Outshooting the Chargers 46-15 in the game, the victory gives the Warriors nine wins in their last 11 games and victories in five straight road games.
Trailing 3-0 late in the second, Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) finally got Merrimack on the board with 2:44 remaining, as his wrister beat Clarke Saunders on the visitors' 29th shot of the game. Bates and Mike Collins (Boston, MA) got the assists on Todd's ninth of the year, which came right after a Warrior power play had expired.
Collins cut the lead to one at 3-2, completing a pretty play, as he took feeds from Todd and Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) and buried it for his fourth of the year just 14 seconds into the third period.
Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) then tied it on the power play at 5:11 as his wrister deflected off a Charger defender and into the net for his fifth. Stollery took feeds from Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) and Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) to execute on Merrimack's fourth power play of the game as Cannata notched his second helper of the season.
Just 1:33 later, with Merrimack on a 4-on-3 advantage, Stollery's rocket went right off the post and right to Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL), who buried into the vacated net for his fifth of the year, giving the Warriors their first lead with their fourth unanswered goal. For Stollery, it marked his 50th career point.
But the Chargers responded immediately as Matt Baxter finished off a 3-on-2, beating Cannata high above the blocker for his ninth of the year at 8:08.
Bates would seal the victory for Merrimack, picking up his first multi-point game of his career and second game-winner in as many games.
Merrimack trailed 2-0 at the end of the first despite outshooting the Chargers by a 19-5 margin as Sebastian Geoffrion and Ryan Burkholder scored 4:36 apart, with Burkholder notching his first career goal in his 102nd game.
Huntsville made it 3-0 at 8:13 of the second as Neil Ruffini potted his fifth of the year, knocking in a loose puck off a centering feed from Geoffrion.
Cannata finished with 11 stops, while Saunders kept his team in it as long as he could with 41 saves.
Bates, Collins, Da Costa, Stollery and Todd each recorded multi-point efforts as the win improved Merrimack's non-conference record to 5-0-1 on the season with Saturday's game remaining as the lone non-conference game remaining on the docket.
The Warriors' power play converted on 2-of-5 chances, while killing off both of UAH's man advantages.