NORTH ANDOVER, MA - #12 Merrimack rallied for three goals in a 5:54 span in the third period to defeat UMass 5-3 at a sold out Lawler Arena Saturday night in the final game of the regular season.
Merrimack (17-10-7, 13-9-5 HEA) will take on the University of Maine in the Hockey East Quarterfinals for the second straight season in the 4/5 matchup. This time, the Warriors will travel to Orono for the best-of-three series which begins Friday. All official game times will be announced Sunday.
Merrimack fans can get their tickets now at the Merrimack box office. The Volpe Box Office is open Sunday from 12-4 p.m. and all week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fans can also call the ticket office at 978-837-5324. Tickets are not available for purchase online at merrimackathletics.com. Information for student tickets will be available shortly.
Fans should log on to Merrimack's Playoff Central 2012 page online at merrimackathletics.com for all the details.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Merrimack exploded for three unanswered goals in a 5:54 span, as Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, CO), Shawn Bates (Ft. Saskatchewan, AB), and Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) each notched a third-period goal in the comeback victory.
On its sixth power play of the game, Merrimack tied it as Myers netted his fourth of the year off a nifty pass from classmate Connor Toomey (Billerica, MA) at 10:28. Toomey took a feed from Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, BC) and broke through two defenders before dishing across to Myers, who one-timed it past Steve Mastalerz.
Then at 14:53, Bates took feeds from Kyle Singleton (Beaverton, OR) and Brandon Brodhag (Brooklyn Park, MN) and buried a one-timer in the slot for his second goal of the weekend to give Merrimack the lead.
Just 1:29 later, Flanigan took a pass from Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) and burst down the left side of the ice and beat Mastalerz over the glove for his 10th of the season, giving the Warriors the two-goal lead.
With the goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Danny Hobbs cut Merrimack's lead to one deflecting a rebound out of midair at 17:43 for his 12th of the season. But the Warriors held from there, as Rhett Bly (Regina, SK) scored an empty netter at 19:56 to preserve Merrimack's ninth home win of the season.
The Warriors struck early as Jesse Todd (Calgary, AB) took feeds from Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) and Flanigan at 3:21 of the first. For Todd, it was his team-leading 12th goal and 97th career point.
Merrimack was awarded a 5-minute power play late in the period, but it was the Minutemen who had two breakaways. After Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) stopped Conor Sheary with the blocker, T.J Syner blew by the Warrior defense and tied the game with just six seconds to play in the period. UMass scored in the final minute of a period again in the second as Steve Guzzo redirected a Colin Shea shot at 19:30 to give the visitors the 2-1 lead at the end of two periods.
Merrimack's seniors combined for two goals and four points in the win, as Flanigan was Merrimack's lone multi-point performer among the 11 players who notched points.
UMass outshot the Warriors 29-25 as Cannata made 26 saves in the win, his 58th of his career. For Merrimack, it was the sixth straight victory over UMass at Lawler.
Last season, Merrimack defeated Maine 5-4 and 6-2 at Lawler Arena to advance to its second-ever Hockey East Semifinals and eventually its first-ever Hockey East Championship game and NCAA Tournament.
Merrimack went 2-0-1 against Maine this season, winning for the first time in 22 games at Orono before earning a win and a tie in January at Lawler Arena.
Before the game, Merrimack honored its Class of 2012, Simon Demers (St. Etienne de Lauzon, QC), Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB), Carter Madsen (Calgary, AB), Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB), Jesse Todd (Calgary, AB), Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY), Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT), Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) and equipment manager Matt LaMalfa. This senior class is the winningest class in Merrimack's Division I history.
Fans should also stay tuned to merrimackathletics.com for more information on the premiere of Merrimack All-Access later this week.