LEWISTON, NY - The Merrimack hockey team netted three goals in a 2:48 span late in the second period but settled for the 4-4 tie in the season opener at Niagara University Saturday night.
Merrimack (0-0-1) returns home to open the newly renovated Lawler Rink next Saturday at 7 p.m. against the University of Connecticut. Limited tickets remain available for the home opener at merrimackathletics.com, with pregame festivities scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the Volpe Complex as part of Homecoming Weekend.
After Paul Zanette gave the Purple Eagles the 3-1 lead 5:55 into the second with a short-handed goal after an apparent Merrimack power-play goal was disallowed, the Warriors took over as Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT), John Heffernan (Scituate, MA) and Brandon Brodhag (Brooklyn Park, MN) scored in a 2:48 span late in the period to give the visitors the 4-3 lead after two.
Nine different players factored in the three unanswered goals as Velleca gathered a deflected pass from Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) and snipped it home at 14:11. Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) also assisted on the goal, his first collegiate helper.
Forty-four seconds later, Heffernan tied it as he buried a rebound off a Bobby Kramer (New York, NY) wrister after John Jamieson (Billerica, MA) forced a turnover in the Niagara zone.
Brodhag rounded out the second period scoring at 16:59, backhanding a loose puck in front of Chris Noonan, with Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) and Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL) notching assists, as Merrimack outshot the hosts 16-14 in the second.
But the Purple Knights responded just 1:04 into the third, as Ryan Rashid tied it with the game-tying goal, giving Niagara goals within the first 2:13 of each period.
The hosts received the lone power play in overtime as Heywood was sent off for elbowing with 2:21 to play, but Merrimack's penalty kill was strong, not allowing a shot and preserving the tie.
After Ryan Annesley gave the hosts the early 1-0 lead, Da Costa registered the first goal of the Warriors' season on the team's first power play at 9:07. Da Costa, last season's NCAA and Hockey East Rookie of the Year, skated down the right side and fired a slapper from just outside the faceoff circle that beat Noonan over his glove. Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) and goaltender Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) assisted on the power-play marker in a first period that saw Merrimack outshot 11-8 by the Purple Eagles.
Eleven Merrimack players picked up points, as Da Costa registered a goal and an assist for the lone multi-point game from the visitors.
The Warriors killed off all seven of Niagara's power plays and finished 1-for-3 on their own man-advantage.
Cannata stopped 29 shots in the tie while Noonan turned aside 24.
The tie was Merrimack's first season-opening tie since it tied Union to open the 2002-03 season.