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ORONO, Maine -- The University of Maine men's ice hockey team dropped the season-opener to Merrimack 2-1 on Friday night at Alfond Arena. The Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead and Maine pulled to within a goal when Klas Leidermark (Gavle, Sweden) netted a third period goal, but that is as close as the Black Bears would get.
Maine and Merrimack skated to a scoreless first period, with Merrimack holding the edge in shots 9-6, but both teams certainly had their chances. With 4:05 to play in the first period, Martin Ouellette (St.-Hippolyte, Quebec) made a fantastic save to keep the game scoreless. With the Warriors on the rush, Ouellette would make the initial save on the left post before stone-walling Connor Toomey on the doorstep. Toomey would try to one-time the rebound on the right post by Ouellette, in a split position, was able to get the right pad on the shot.
The Black Bears gained their best advantage of the first period when freshman Connor Leen (Chester, N.Y.) forced a turnover at the top of the left circle and skated in on Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata. Leen would make a move, bring the puck back and try to force a wristshot into the back of the net but Cannata was able to get a pad on the puck, keeping the game scoreless with 1:35 to play in the first period.
Merrimack gained a 1-0 advantage when Jeff Velleca capitalized on the power play with his first goal of the season. At the 4:32 mark of the second period Brendan Ellis would fire a shot through a crowd towards the net. Velleca was able to get a stick on the shot, tipping it past Ouellete and into the back of the net. Ryan Flanigan was credited with the secondary assist on the play.
The Warriors extended their lead to 2-0 when Jesse Todd forced a turnover and scored shorthanded with just 55 secons remaining in the second period. Todd would steal the puck at the opposite blueline and skate in with a 2-on-1 advantage on Ouellette. Todd kept it himself and flicked a wrister into the back of the net.
The Black Bears kept fighting as Klas Leidermark (Gavle, Sweden) tallied Maine's first goal of the season, 10:50 into the third period. Leidermark stole the puck in the neutral zone and skate in shorthanded on Cannata, firing a solid wrist shot that snuck over the goaltender's left pad to cut the Warrior lead to 2-1.
Maine would continue to fight, pulling its goaltender with 50-seconds remaining in the third period. But the Cannata and the Warriors would hold on, taking the Hockey East contest by a score of 2-1.
Merrimack held the edge in shots 27-23. The Black Bears were 0-for-9 on the power play while Merrimack was 1-for-6.
Ouellete played solid in net for Maine as he made 25 saves but falls to 0-1-0 on the season. Cannata picks up the win, moving to 1-0-0 after making 22 saves for the Warriors.
The Black Bears return to action on Sunday when they host Northeastern in Hockey East action. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.