NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Behind three first-period goals including two short-handed tallies, Merrimack completed its first-ever weekend sweep of UMass Lowell, as head coach Mark Dennehy earned his 50th win as Merrimack's head coach in a 3-2 victory over the River Hawks in front of 2,037 fans at Lawler Arena Saturday night.
Merrimack (4-2-4, 3-2-3 HEA) will host the defending National Champion and ninth-ranked Boston College Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Lawler Arena. Limited tickets remain and are available at the Merrimack Box Office. UMass Lowell (2-8-2, 2-8-0 HEA) will host Minnesota-State Mankato for a pair of games next weekend beginning Friday at 7 p.m.
The victory extends Merrimack's unbeaten streak to four games at 2-0-2.
"You want points every weekend in this league," said Barton, who's 3-on-5 short-handed goal is the program's first since joining Hockey East. "We worked hard this weekend and prepared hard. I think we learned from last weekend, letting that lead slip away against BU."
Picking up right where they left off Friday night, the Warriors netted three first-period goals, two of them of the short-handed variety as Rhett Bly (Regina, SK), Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB) and Chris Barton (Calgary, AB) each beat Doug Carr as the Warriors outshot Lowell 14-6. Bly got the Warriors on the board at 8:04 after Shawn Bates (Fort Saskatchewan, AB) threw the puck at the net, and Bly was there to swat it home.
Sheen picked up Merrimack's first short-handed goal since December of 2008 as he stole the puck from a Lowell defender and beat Carr on the backhand on the breakaway for his second of the year just 2:27 later.
Then at 17:05 and with the Warriors down two skaters, Fraser Allan (North Battleford, SK) threw the puck up the boards where Barton beat a River Hawk to the puck and converted a breakaway for his third of the season.
Lowell crept back into the game getting second-period goals from Joe Caveney and David Vallorani, Merrimack's defense limited its opponents to just 12 shots in the game, and just one in the third period.
"We were playing on the balls of our feet all night," said Dennehy. "We worked incredibly hard, especially in the second and third periods when we were up three goals. It didn't take much encouragement for our guys to keep going hard."
Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) stopped 10 shots for his fourth win of the season, while Marc Boulanger, who entered after the first period, stopped all 23 shots he faced.
The win marked Merrimack's third straight triumph over the River Hawks, its longest streak against its cross-town rival since 1977 and its first-ever weekend sweep of its opponent. It is also the first time the Warriors will win the season-series against Lowell since the 1996-97 season.
The Warriors, who were the top "other receiving votes" team in last week's USCHO National Poll, improved to 3-0-1 at home this season and 18-5-3 in their last 25 home games.