NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack freshman Vinny Scotti came up with the biggest goal of his young career, netting the game-winner with just over seven minutes to play as Merrimack defeated Army on Tuesday night at Lawler Arena, 4-2.
Scotti beat Army goalie Rob Tadazak with a shot after a wide shot by fellow freshman Justin Hussar found its way to his stick at the bottom of the left circle.
What I Saw
– Merrimack threw 94 shot attempts on Army sophomore goaltender Rob Tadazak. The Black Knights blocked a whopping 23 shots, with 46 making their way to Tadazak, who turned aside 42 of the 45 shots he faced (the Warriors added an empty netter). The Warriors offense shrunk the ice for large stretches, with some of the best work in the offensive zone that the Warriors have displayed all season.
– Mac Lalor, normally a defenseman, played the wing on Army’s second line. He potted a pair of goals in just 36 seconds in the third period on the power play, but both goals came from his more familiar spot on the point. Army was in the midst of a power play when Merrimack’s Kyle Bigos was whistled for holding the stick, giving Army a 5-on-3 advantage. They stuck just 10 seconds into the two-man advantage, and 36 seconds later, struck again to, at the time, tie the score at 2-2.
What I Thought
– Rob Tadazak was tremendous. That’s all I can say. He’s the only reason that Army was still in the game during the first period, where the Warriors really turned up the heat. The Black Knights were battling bus legs, having taking the roughly four-hour ride from West Point to North Andover yesterday afternoon, and the Warriors outshot Army 19-4 in the first period, but, Tadazak stopped every shot. Tadazak not only had to stop a high volume of shots, but the Warriors were buzzing around Army’s zone for large stretches early in the game, meaning Tadazak had to stay on his toes. Once Army got its legs, the Black Knights were able to transition out of some Merrimack pressure to create chances on their own at the other end.
– Merrimack played, what I thought, was one of their best games of the season. There have been times this season where the Warriors were too much on their heels, too reactionary to what their opponent was doing, but the Warriors were on the attack against Army. It was something that head coach Mark Dennehy stressed after the game as well – initiating more of the game’s tempo.
– I’m always impressed with Army’s style. You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder working team than the Black Knights. The game was physical from the start, including a first-period skirmish after Shawn Bates poked a puck into the Army net right as a whistle blew. Later, Kyle Singleton found himself wrapped up with Army’s Josh Richards in the neutral zone.
What They Said
Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy on playing Army … ”Up to this point, it was the hardest game of the year. It’s a non-conference game, everyone’s thinking about finals and everyone’s thinking about Christmas and I know that these young men from West Point are going to come in and play their tails off. … We shrunk the rink quite a bit and we moved the puck well. I like how we played. The first period definitely jumpstarted us. We were definitely ready to go. Now, they also drove up here (yesterday) and that isn’t easy, but we had to play hard. … They tie it up because, thankfully, for our country, these guys don’t quit, they keep battling, and we knew they would. But even when they tied it 2-2, there was still a level of confidence on our bench and a level of determination that hasn’t been there all year long. Those types of games are good for us.”
Army head coach Brian Riley on the play of sophomore G Rob Tadazak … “I think we had the best player on the ice tonight. He kept us in it when we needed him to. That first period we were under siege but we knew that we were still in the game and that was because he gave us a chance tonight, for sure. … He’s a very good goalie. He’s very composed, you never saw him get rattled, and that kept us under control. There were times where we had to weather some storms but he was a calming influence.”