NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — For the second time this season, Merrimack outshot New Hampshire by a wide margin but walked away without a win, as the Wildcats took the lead in the best-of-three Hockey East playoff series after scoring a 3-1 win over the Warriors last night.
UNH leads the series, 1-0. Merrimack will need to win tonight’s Game 2 in order to extend its season or else the Warriors will become the first team in college hockey this season to see it’s campaign come to a close.
Merrimack finished the night with a 79-50 Corsi advantage (61.2%), and earlier this season, when the Wildcats beat the Warriors 4-2 on Halloween, Merrimack had a 75-30 Corsi advantage (71.4%). In those two losses alone, Merrimack controlled 65.8% of the possession.
“I think if we play like that again we’re going to win,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “That’s been my experience. You throw that much rubber at a goaltender, and it wasn’t like these were all outside shots, they were inside, too. I thought we had plenty of chances to score. You tip your cap and get back at it.
“What we need to do is pay attention when we’re not in their zone. Their first goal, we just fell asleep. We had five guys back, it was a little quick counter and those guys don’t need a lot of space to score goals. That’s on us. You can’t fall asleep there. That’s too easy a goal, especially after how hard we need to work. You know that they can be sleepy. That’s what they do. It’s like the old Miami Dolphin defense, bend don’t break, right? They give up 15 shots and then they go down and they score. They transition, so you need to pay attention. You can’t fall asleep for a second.”
UNH received two goals from freshman Marcus Vela, who scored from the slot after a blocked shot early in the third period, and then tacked on the empty-net goal from the neutral zone to ice the game.
“Every shot in here is a good shot,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We watched them play and they throw the puck to the net a lot. Deflections, rebounds, and if you are in position to go to the net, you get some scoring chances.”