Durham, NH - UNH had many chances in the first period but failed to capitalize throughout the period. Merrimack would score the first goal of the game six minutes, 18 seconds into the game as Clayton Jardine sent a pass to Shawn Bates all alone in the high slot and the latter fired over Casey Desmith’s glove to give Merrimack the 1-0 lead, which would hold through the first intermission. The second period would be dominated by UNH, where they would send 20 shots toward Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta but they would be outscored 2-1 in the period. Merrimack took a 3-1 lead into the final stanza.
UNH continued to dominate the game through much of the third period sending another 20 shots toward Sam Marotta, but Marotta saved them all and was in the zone. Merrimack would add an empty-netter to up the lead to 4-1 and they would get the win in front of 5499 disappointed Wildcat fans.
Merrimack improves to 12-10-5 overall, 10-6-2 in Hockey East, while UNH falls to 16-7-2 and 11-6-1. UNH continues to sit in second place two points behind Boston College in the Hockey East standings. Merrimack jumps into third place one point back of UNH in second and one point ahead of fourth place. Despite the loss UNH actually rose in the Pairwise because RPI became a TUC. Merrimack now enters the national picture in a big way after a weekend sweep of UMass-Lowell and UNH.
What I Saw
- UNH sent everything but the kitchen sink at Sam Marotta in the second period outshooting Merrimack 20-9. UNH may not have come out with the necessary energy in the first, but they certainly did in the second and third periods. Although they dominated the Warriors territoriality and on the shot clock in the last 40 minutes of the contest, they were unable to capitalize on their opportunities. They were outscored 2-1 in the second period and they were unable to use a delayed penalty goal to bring any momentum on their power-play. The third period was much of the same, but UNH just couldn’t finish.
- Despite getting outshot for much of the contest, Merrimack held their own and were very opportunistic throughout the contest. Both goals by Shawn Bates were bad defensive breakdowns by UNH, where Clayton Jardnie found the former open. Bates played a fantastic game and Jardine as well. They were by far the most opportunistic of the Warriors, but in the end those two goals proved to be crucial in the contest.
What I Thought
- The first period was about as even of a stanza as their could have been. UNH had the better of the opportunities in longer spurts but Merrimack does so well along the walls and were able to stifle many of the Wildcat entrances into the offensive zone. Merrimack also had sustained pressure throughout the period as well. It just seemed that neither team had the advantage of play. The difference was Merrimack had the lone goal, on really the lone breakdown by either team in the period.
- UNH had plenty of chances in the second as they had 14 grade-A opportunities, but Sam Marotta and UNH were the Wildcats biggest opponent in the period. Not capitalizing on grand opportunities will come back to haunt them come tournament time, it is one thing that UNH has struggled to do this whole semester, along with massive defensive breakdowns. Both of which showed up in a big way on this night.
- Merrimack, despite giving up 52 shots in the game, bent but didn’t break. They lacked possession time and gave up quality opportunities, but they held defensive breakdowns to the minimum. The two defensive breakdowns on the first two UNH goals ended up being the difference in the contest.
What They Said
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said,
“I thought we played pretty sound defensively. This is a tough place to defend and the majority of the goals are scored within ten feet of the net. That is the most important thing here and we stressed that coming in here.”
“I have heard it said a number of times by a number of different people in hockey. The way its going they will have to change the name of this game from hockey to goalie. You know its hard to score goals with five bodies looking to block shots and a goalie who is big and fills a lot of the net. Obviously Sam played well and we bent but did not break.”
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“It’s a crazy game sometimes you can’t always go by the total number of shots. I think there goalie played well and we just couldn’t get it past their goaltender.”
UNH forward Austin Block said,
“Their goalie played well and we just couldn’t find a way to get it past them.”
What Else You Should Know
Merrimack will travel to Boston University on Friday night. They will need to get another huge performance from Sam Marotta next weekend to continue their recent resurgence. Merrimack has boosted themselves all the way in to the third position in the standings, with BU right behind them. The game will be huge in terms of the standings and how teams will be rated come the end of the year.
UNH will travel to Providence in the front end of a home and home series. New Hampshire will need to have a similar game to what they had on this night. They really couldn’t have played any better, sending 52 shots at Sam Marotta.