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AMHERST, Mass. - With the UMass hockey team leading #6 Merrimack 1-0 through two periods, the teams combined for five third period goals before Carter Madsen gave the Warriors a 4-3 overtime victory Friday night at the Mullins Center. Adam Phillips scored twice for the Minutemen (6-17-5, 5-12-5 HEA) while Paul Dainton made 31 saves in goal. Joe Cannata made 27 stops for the Warriors (20-5-4, 14-5-3 HEA), who will host the Mass Attack in the series finale tomorrow night at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack held a 35-30 edge in shots for the game, including a 16-12 lead during the third period. With 38 penalty minutes and six matching minors assessed between the two teams, the Warriors were 2-for-3 on the power play, while the Minutemen broke a 1-for-43 power play skid with a 1-for-3 showing on Friday.
Both teams traded blows throughout the first period, but it was the Minutemen who skated away with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Dainton was tested numerous times during the opening frame, the biggest coming when he stoned Chris Barton with a sprawling stick save going post to post midway through the stanza. Ryan Flanigan also had a scoring chance when he rocketed a wrist shot off the facemask of Dainton that deflected into the corner.
Massachusetts took a 1-0 lead with 5:08 left in the period when Sheary scored his sixth goal of the season off a feed from Michael Pereira. Sheary took the pass from his linemate, and maintained patience with the puck before sending a wrister off the crossbar and over Cannata's left shoulder for the score.
Merrimack held a narrow 9-7 edge in shots during the second period, but Dainton continued to make save after save to deny the Warriors of the equalizer. With 7:30 left to play in the frame, the UMass captain came out of the crease to cut down the angle and make a huge blocker save on John Jamison. The Minuteman netminder also made a stop on Elliott Sheen on a two-on-one with Barton with just over five minutes left in the frame.
UMass had some chances of its own during the period, as Danny Hobbs had two consecutive opportunities, the first colliding with the right post before a second opportunity on the doorstep that was turned aside by Cannata. Hobbs had a chance later in the period on an odd-man rush with Michael Marcou, as well, that Cannata was also able to handle.
Barton got things started for Merrimack during a wild third period, as the teams combined for five goals to end regulation in a 3-3 deadlock. With the Warriors on the power play, Barton tipped a shot from Karl Stollery at the point that got under Dainton's arm for Barton's 13th goal of the season. Merrimack then took a 2-1 lead with 7:35 left in the frame when Brendan Ellis netted his second goal of the year when his shot from the blueline seemed to handcuff Dainton to get over the goalline.
Massachusetts kept its composure, however, as Phillips took a feed from Joel Hanley at the right side, and let off a bullet that got through a screen to beat Cannata for Phillips' seventh goal of the year. With 2:46 left in regulation, Phillips gave UMass the lead once again as he connected with Hanley for a one-timer with the Minutemen on the power play. After taking a pass from Hobbs, Hanley spotted Phillips sinking in towards the cage, and fed Phillips with a perfect feed for a quick one-timer past Cannata before he could go post-to-post.
Merrimack battled back, however, leveling the score at three with 1:22 left in the frame when Jeff Velleca's centering pass from the left corner found the stick of Joe Cucci on the doorstep to get past Dainton for Cucci's 11th goal of the season, sending the Minutemen to overtime for the third straight game.
The Warriors held a 3-0 shot advantage in overtime, and Carter Madsen secured the victory for Merrimack following a transition from the defensive zone. Flanigan and Sheen went in two-on-one after the puck squirted out to the neutral zone. Flanigan's initial shot was saved by Dainton, but the rebound popped out to Madsen as he joined the play and deposited the puck into the twine for the game-winner.