AMHERST, Mass. - No. 16 University of Massachusetts hockey continued its hot start to the season by opening Hockey East play with a 5-1 victory over Merrimack at the Mullins Center on Friday night. The Minutemen (4-1-0, 1-0-0 HEA) built a 4-0 lead before the Warriors (2-4-0, 1-1-0 HEA) spoiled the shutout bid in the third and capped the scoring with their first shorthanded goal of the season.
Senior Jacob Pritchard put UMass on the board with a power-play goal 6:30 into the contest, carrying the puck out of the corner and firing a shot that found its way underneath Merrimack netminder Craig Pantano. Sophomores John Leonard and Mitchell Chaffee earned the assists on the play.
UMass withstood 1 minute, 37 seconds of a 5-on-3 penalty kill midway through the frame before senior Brett Boeing gave the squad a two-goal edge heading into the intermission. Sophomore Cale Makar won the puck off the wall and gave it to junior Niko Hildenbrand who sent a pass up the ice to Boeing for the scorching tally at 18:31.
Leonard added the lone goal of the second period to push the lead to 3-0. After receiving the puck from junior Jack Suter and freshman Ty Farmer, he drove to the slot for a quick strike 16:22 into the frame.
Just 1:45 into the third, freshman Marc Del Gaizo increased the advantage to 4-0, knocking the puck in off Pantano from below the goal line off a feed from Chaffee and Leonard.
Merrimack's only tally of the night came at the 6:39 mark. Sophomore Matt Murray denied Laine McKay on the breakaway, but Matt McArdle trailed the play and put home the rebound.
Boeing then added his second of the night 12:08 into the third with the Minutemen killing a five-minute major against Makar. Sophomore Jake Gaudet stripped a Warriors player of the puck, sending it ahead to Boeing who completed the partial break with a backhand over Pantano.
UMass finished with a 29-27 edge in shots and went 2-for-5 on the power play while holding Merrimack to an 0-for-6 night with the man advantage. Murray made 26 saves en route to his third win (3-0-0) of the season, while Pantano had 24 stops for the Warriors.
Ten Minutemen found their way onto the scoresheet in the contest, led by a three-point performance from Leonard on a goal and two assists, tying a single game career high. Boeing posted his first multi-goal effort of his collegiate career and now has nine points (5g, 4a) in his last nine games, dating back to the end of the 2017-18 campaign. Chaffee chipped in with two helpers, his second multi-point game of the season and eighth of his career as he now has six points in five games to start 2018-19.
UMass and Merrimack will be back in action tomorrow, Oct. 27, completing the home-and-home in North Andover with a 7 p.m. start.