NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - All even at two goals apiece, Nick Jones found a bouncing puck that slid across the offensive zone and found the back of the net with 34 seconds left in regulation, and that was enough for visiting Mercyhurst, as the Merrimack College men's ice hockey team dropped a hard-fought battle, 3-2, against the Lakers on Friday night at Lawler Rink.
In a battle that featured two teams aiming to get in the win column for the first time in 2013-14, the host Warriors, playing on their home rink for the first time this season, poured plenty of chances at Mercyhurst netminder Jimmy Sarjeant and wound up with a 35-21 advantage in shots on target throughout the night.
Still, the Lakers never trailed in the game, potting the opening goal at 8:50 in the first before Merrimack tied it five minutes later. Mercyhurst again took a lead at 7:30 of the second frame before the Warriors responded just 1:25 later to send the contest into the final stanza all even at 2-2.
But despite holding a six-shot advantage in the third frame (11-5), Mercyhurst withheld the pressure and, with just over 30 seconds to go, Daniel O'Donoghue chipped a puck across the Merrimack zone that eventually got through to Jones, who beat netminder Sam Marotta (Bridgewater, Mass.) over the shoulder to account for the game-winner.
In the first, sophomore Justin Hussar (Lancaster, N.Y.) pounced on a rebounded shot initially taken by junior Dan Kolomatis (Basking Ridge, N.J.) and buried it for the first Merrimack goal of the season, with senior Rhett Bly (Regina, Saskatchewan) picking up the secondary assist on the play to get the Warriors on the board at 13:40 and tie the match up.
After O'Donoghue put the visitors ahead at 7:30 of the second, Merrimack needed just under 90 seconds to respond, as Kolomatis wrapped the puck around the net in the defensive zone to find junior Clayton Jardine (Lacombe, Alberta), who then fed a long pass up to junior Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at the blue line, who got around one defender and one-timed a slapper off the iron and past Sarjeant for the equalizer at 8:55 of the second.
That score would stand the rest of the way until Jones' deciding strike at 19:26 of the third.
On the night, Sarjeant finished with an impressive 33 saves, while Marotta turned aside 21 for the hosts.
The Warriors and Lakers wrap up the weekend series in North Andover tomorrow night. Puck drop from Lawler Rink is set for 7 p.m.