Freshman Mario Puskarich scores three goals and assist for Catamounts

Freshman Mario Puskarich scored three goals and an assist for the Catamounts

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - The Merrimack College men's ice hockey team tied the match late in the second period, but Vermont's Mario Puskarich went off for three goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation to lead 16th-ranked Vermont to a 4-1 decision over the Warriors in Hockey East action on Friday night at Lawler Rink.

Both sides exchanged power-play goals in the second period, sending the contest into the final frame deadlocked at 1-all.

But Puskarich and the Catamounts capitalized on a turnover and scored on an ensuing odd-man rush at 9:49 to account for the game-winning marker, and then the rookie sensation promptly added a second strike seven minutes later and deposited an empty-net goal with under two minutes to go to wrap up his third-period outburst.

Senior forward Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) represented the lone scorer for the Warriors after beating Vermont netminder Brody Hoffman while Merrimack was skating with a 5-on-3 advantage, but that would be the only time the home side would find the back of the net, as Vermont snapped a 12-game losing streak against Merrimack by means of Friday night's decision.

The commencement of the contest began in bizarre fashion, as a fire alarm inside the building prompted a mandatory evacuation of the crowd at hand, as well as both teams, causing an approximate delay of 20 minutes before action was restored. Following the hiatus, Vermont pushed the momentum through the first 10 minutes of the period before Merrimack found its legs.

While both sides were skating four-on-four, Jonathan Turk snuck behind the Warrior defense and was interfered with while skating in on junior Rasmus Tirronen (Espoo, Finland), prompting a penalty shot opportunity for the visitors. But Tirronen was up to the task, tracking down Turk before making a blocker save to keep the game scoreless.

Inspired by their goaltender's efforts, the Warriors controlled the remainder of play in the first frame and generated a power-play opportunity of their own with less than five minutes to go. Despite not finding the back of the net, Merrimack took that momentum into the locker room to start the second.

Brendan Bradley got the Catamounts on the board while on the power play at 7:48 of the second before Collins responded later in the frame. Back-to-back Vermont penalties handed the Warriors a 5-on-3 opportunity late in the second, and Collins promptly capitalized to draw the Warriors even. Sophomore Vinny Scotti (Vineland, N.J.) and senior Jordan Heywood (Regina, Saskatchewan) each assisted on the play.

But Vermont would stave off the remainder of Merrimack's subsequent power-play chance, as both sides entered the locker room at 1-1.

In the third, the Catamounts would register all three scores within a nine-minute span - all by Puskarich - to account for the final decision.