NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — A three-goal second period propelled Merrimack College to a 6-0 victory over the Maine Black Bears on Saturday night in front of 2,489 fans at Lawler Arena. Junior Sam Marotta made 30 saves in his second career shutout.
Merrimack blew the game open in the second period as John Heffernan picked up his third goal of the season off of a rebound after a shot from Shawn Bates. Just over four minutes later, Vinny Scotti made the score 4-0 in favor of the home team with the assists going to his line mates John Gustafsson and Connor Toomey. Collins picked up a power-play tally with 1:20 left in the second period as he beat Matt Morris under his blocker.
What I saw
– Mike Collins made a great play entering the zone to create a chance, and goal, for Quinn Gould. Collins blocked a shot and took the puck into the zone but curled up to buy some time. Gould charged to the net and Collins fed him on the stick for Merrimack’s second goal of the game. For Collins, it makes him the leading scorer in Hockey East (league games), slightly ahead of Johnny Gaudreau in points-per-game. Collins went his first league game without a point in Merrimack’s 4-1 loss to BU on Friday.
– Matt Morris replaced Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette in the second period after Ouellette surrendered four goals on 17 shots. Morris stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced.
What I Thought
– In what will likely get lost in a six-goal outburst, Merrimack junior goaltender Sam Marotta was outstanding, playing what might have been his best game in a Merrimack uniform. Marotta made some tough saves through traffic and was forced to do so while dealing with constant pressure from Maine forwards crashing the net. Especially in the second period, Marotta was at the bottom of a heap at almost every whistle down his end of the ice. He made some athletic saves and, like he has all season, battled from start to finish.
– On the heels of what I thought was one of his best games this season, Kyle Bigos was once again one of Merrimack’s best defensemen. Bigos kept his cool at times when the game was getting out of hand, and yet still found a way to impose his physical will at times. He also nearly took Martin Ouellette’s head clean off with a booming slapper in the first period. The Warriors will, unquestionably, be looking for more efforts like that out of Bigos the rest of the way.
– Any player willing to drop down and block a shot has my respect. But, it takes a special player who is willing to do the same thing with a big lead, and there were plenty of Merrimack players dropping down in front of shots with a big lead in the third period. Kyle Singleton made a big block on the penalty kill, which hurt me all the way up in the press box (it was a loud, audible block, of which I can only hope, for his sake, hit pad and not bone). Tom McCarthy dove in front of a shot in the slot and Dan Kolomatis was able to get his leg on another. Most of these big blocks came with the Warriors ahead 5-0. As Marotta put it after the game, “you don’t see that with a lot of teams.” There were 42 total blocked shots in the game, with the Warriors stepping in front of 26 and the Black Bears 16.
– Maine senior captain Mike Cornell admits that he didn’t imagine it when he arrived in Orono, but Merrimack and Maine have become quite a rivalry in Hockey East. Last night, in front of a sellout crowd at Lawler Arena, the Warriors continued their dominance over the Black Bears at home, winning 6-0. Now the Warriors travel to Orono next weekend for a pair of games at Alfond Arena. Cornell has won just once at Lawler Arena – the first time he played here his freshman year – and since, Maine has gone 0-6-1 in the building, including getting swept in the 2011 Hockey East quarterfinals. But the Black Bears returned the favor the next season, ousting the Warriors in three games last year, ending Merrimack’s season.
– In a strange scheduling oddity, Merrimack and Maine will play three times in a row, hooking up twice more next weekend.
What They Said
Maine Capt. Mike Cornell: “Coming in I didn’t expect Merrimack to be one of our biggest rivals. It’s a scheduling quirk (playing Merrimack 3 times in a row) , and it’s both a good thing and a bad thing. We get right back at it but we got a sour taste in our mouth, so there’s no shortage of motivation to hopefully come out on top.”
Merrimack F Quinn Gould: “We’ve had a rivalry over the last couple of years. As you can see, emotions fly. It’s exciting now that we get to go up there for two, it’s like a mini playoff series, and we don’t forget what they did to us last year.”