HANOVER, NH - Seventh-ranked Merrimack led 3-0, trailed 5-3 and rallied in the final minute to tie the game at six, before falling in a shootout to Saint Lawrence Friday afternoon in the first game of the Ledyard National Bank Classic at Dartmouth.
Merrimack is now 10-3-3 overall and 7-2-in Hockey East following the tie. The Warriors will take on the loser of the Dartmouth/Holy Cross game Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Thompson Arena.
Merrimack led 3-0 after just 21:17, but the Saints responded with five unanswered goals in the second. The Warriors tied it at five midway through the third and then at six with 42-seconds left only to fall in the shootout. By NCAA rules, the game is recorded as a tie.
Shawn Bates (Fort Saskatchewan, AB) led the way for the Warriors with a career-high two goals, two assists and four points, extending his point streak to four games.
The Warriors started quickly as Brandon Brodhag (Brooklyn Park, MN) and Jesse Todd (Calgary, AB) each scored in the first 7:01 of the game, giving Merrimack a 2-0 lead after one period.
At 3:26, Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) found a stretching Brodhag, who beat Matt Weninger on the breakaway for his second of the year. Just 3:35 later, Clayton Jardine (Lacombe, AB) fed Todd, who broke in on a 2-on-1 with Bates. Todd looked off Bates and fired a wrister that beat Weninger glove side for his sixth of the year.
Mike Collins (Boston, MA) made it 3-0 at 1:17 of the second knocking in a rebound for his sixth of the year and 20th of his career. Just as a Merrimack power play expired, Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, BC) threw a shot on net that was stopped, as was a rebound by Bates, but Collins was there to finish the sequence with Weninger out of position.
But the Saints rallied for five unanswered goals in the second, including two power play goals in a 27-second span, as Merrimack surrendered five in a period for the first time since October 16, 2005, which was the second-career game at Merrimack for head coach Mark Dennehy.
First, George Hughes made it 3-1 with an unassisted blast at 3:20. Then, with St. Lawrence on a two-man advantage, Chris Martin redirected a Hughes shot at 10:20, and Kyle Flanagan beat Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) with a wrister during a 5-on-4 power play at 10:47. Nelson Armstrong followed at 15:36 with first career goal, and Riley Austin concluded the second-period scoring outburst, getting a rebound in front of Cannata at 18:14, giving the Saints the two-goal lead through two periods.
Merrimack would rally as Kyle Singleton (Beaverton, OR) netted his first career goal and point, as a wrister from the point went into the net, with Ellis and Brodhag getting assists at 8:40 of the third. Moments later, Bates knotted the game up at five, taking feeds from Todd and Jardine and beating Weninger on the backhand at 10:53 for his third of the year.
But the Saints answered right back, as Hughes picked up their third power-play tally of the game at 12:25 with Flanagan setting him up for his fourth point of the game.
Merrimack poured on the pressure from there, outshooting the Saints 18-6 in the third, and Bates would tie it again with 42 seconds left with Cannata pulled for the extra attacker. Ellis threw the puck on net, and Todd got the rebound and dished it to Bates, who slammed it home for his second of the period and first-career two-goal and four-point game.
In the extra frame, the Saints were awarded a power play 21-seconds in, but Cannata stood tall with four big saves before Bates drew a penalty of his own with 3:03 to play.
Todd scored Merrimack's lone shootout goal as Cannata stopped five straight shots to force additional sudden death rounds. Merrimack hit three posts as shots from Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY), Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, CO), and Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) all beat Weninger but went right off a post. Chris Martin secured the win for the Saints in the ninth round, as St. Lawrence prevailed in the shootout 2-1 to advance to Saturday's title game.
The line of Jardine, Bates and Bly led the way for Merrimack totaling three goals and nine points, while Ellis tallied three helpers, giving him the team lead for assists with eleven.
Merrimack outshot the Saints 39-26, as Cannata stopped 20 shots in the tie.
St. Lawrence went 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Warriors were 0-for-6 despite firing nine shots.