NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Jeff Velleca had a career-high two goals and three points, while Justin Mansfield tallied his first-ever two-goal game as #5 Merrimack defeated Vermont 5-2 Wednesday night at Lawler Arena to finish off its first-ever season-sweep of the Catamounts.
Merrimack (10-2-1, 7-2-1 HEA) will head to #12/11 Colgate for a big Saturday showdown with the Raiders at 7 p.m. at Starr Rink in Hamilton, New York. The Warriors' next home game is Saturday, December 17 at 4 p.m. against #10/9 Union in a game televised in HD by WBIN locally.
The line of Mansfield, Carter Madsen, and Velleca was the difference, combining for seven points, as Merrimack improved to 13-1-1 in its last 15 at Lawler and 31-6-3 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
Merrimack improved to 7-0-2 in its last nine against the Catamounts. The Warriors won all three meetings this season for the first time in school history.
Velleca got the Warriors on the board with a beautiful short-handed goal at 6:55. After Brendan Ellis knocked the puck into the neutral zone, Velleca dribbled it between the legs of a Vermont defender and beat Rob Madore blocker side for his third of the year and first career shorthanded marker.
Velleca made it 2-0, getting his first career two-goal game at 7:53 of the second with Madsen and Mike Wills picking up the assists. Velleca fired a slapper from the blue line as Merrimack gained the zone that just snuck through the pads of Madore.
After the Warriors were assessed a pair of penalties at 11:48, Kyle Reynolds cut the lead in half with a power play goal at 12:35, his fourth of the year. But Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) stood tall for the remainder of the kill, making three stops on Reynolds, the final one while playing without a stick.
Velleca struck again at 16:13 as he stole the puck in the Catamount end and fed it to Mansfield, who was stationed in front of Madore. The freshman buried it for his second of the year, extending Merrimack's lead back to goals.
After Sebastian Stalberg cut the lead in half with a rocket at 9:43, the Catamounts thought they tied it 19 seconds later, but Colin Markison's apparent goal was disallowed after the puck was ruled to never have crossed on the goal line.
Merrimack put the game away from there, as Mansfield and Connor Toomey scored 15 seconds apart at 14:19 and 14:34 of the period.
Mansfield took a feed from Madsen in front of Madore and finished it for his first career two-goal game. Seconds later, Toomey took feeds from Mike Collins and Clayton Jardine and fired it off Madore's pad from behind the goal line for his fifth of the year and fifth in his last five games.
The Warriors held on from there, as Cannata made three big stops during a 5-on-3 for 1:34 to seal the victory, his 51st as a Warrior.
Cannata finished with 32 stops, while Madore made 28 in the losing effort.
Velleca, who had a career-high two goals and three points, was a +4 in the win. Mansfield, Ellis, and Madsen all were a +3 in the win.
Vermont went 1-for-6 on the man advantage, while Merrimack was 0-for-3.