NORTH ANDOVER – Lucas Condotta’s shorthanded goal in the second period was a moment that could have sent the Merrimack men’s hockey team into a downward spiral.
In the past, moments like that had done so.
But this Merrimack team just feels a little different. Instead, the Warriors responded with a late power-play goal and added another one before the second period was over en route to a 3-1 win over the No. 9-ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks on Friday night at Lawler Arena.
“We’re starting to get the results that we knew could get all along,” said Merrimack captain Max Newton. “As long as we’re ready to go, we have a chance to win every night. Earlier in the year, we had some games where we lost by a goal, or in overtime, and it’s tough. That can set you back a little bit at the moment but you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You can learn from those games and I think we’ve done a good job of learning from those moments. ”
After Condotta’s goal gave the River Hawks the lead, the Warriors responded with a good shift from the line centered by Mac Welsher.
Then the Warriors got a chance on the power play when Lowell’s Ben Meehan was called for roughing at the 16:04 mark. Just 36 seconds into the power play, Newton found the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season.
Meehan was then ejected from the game after a cross-checking major two minutes later. Only 11 seconds into that power play, Merrimack defenseman Declan Carlile scored his sixth goal of the season to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
Zach Uens added an insurance goal four minutes into the third period.
But it all started with the response the Warriors had after they fell behind on the shorthanded goal in the second period.
“They scored that goal and I just listened to the guys on the bench,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. I felt like we were confident, but our group was not panicked. This was probably as quiet as I’ve been on the bench and it was one of our most difficult games to date. But the team is taking that responsibility right now. I was so impressed with how we handled that. ”
The Warriors are now 8-3-1 in their last 12 games and 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They moved up to fifth in the Hockey East standings and No. 18 nationally in the Pairwise, placing them firmly on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament bid. Merrimack has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011 and the Warriors have only qualified twice as a Division I program (1988 and 2011).
Where did the Warriors find this newfound confidence?
“You can not forget the goaltending,” Borek said. “Our team has gained confidence as our goaltenders have grown in their games. I feel really good about what’s behind us, and on top of that, we’ve been able to score and get back in games, like we did today. It’s a tough first goal to give up, but we kept on playing. ”
The Warriors have allowed two goals or less in seven out of the last eight games.
Meanwhile, Lowell saw its five-game losing streak snapped as the River Hawks lost for the first time since Dec. 4 against UMass.
“We need to be better in a lot of ways,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin. “It’s a special teams game when you’re killing that often. It’s going to drain your bench. That was the case tonight.
“It’s one of those situations where you give credit to your opponent, and then you find ways to improve the following day. I’m looking forward to seeing some of this film because I have to find out how some of this played out. It’s tough from the angle on the bench, sometimes. ”
GAME NOTES: Ben Brar and Steven Jandric led the Warriors with four shots on goal. … After recording an assist on Friday night, Steven Jandric is now just one point away from 100 in his collegiate career. … Ollas is now on a personal four-game winning streak and has only given up five goals during that stretch. He has a .952 save percentage and 1.25 goals-against average during those games.
NEXT: The Warriors and River Hawks will complete the weekend home-and-home series on Saturday night with a 6:05 puck drop at the Tsongas Center.
Merrimack 3, #9 UMass Lowell 1 at Lawler Arena UMass Lowell (13-4-3): 0-1-0--1 Merrimack (11-10-1): 0-2-1--3 First Period: None. Second Period: 1. UML Lucas Condotta 5 (Ben Meehan, Blake Wells), sh, 8:29; 2. MC Max Newton 10 (Logan Drevitch, Steven Jandric), pp, 16:40; 3. MC Declan Carlile 6 (Ben Brar, Liam Walsh), pp, 18:48. Third Period: 4. MC Zach Uens 1 (Liam Walsh, Filip Forsmark), ev, 4:00. Shots: Merrimack 10-10-4--24; UMass Lowell 7-7-10--24 Saves: MC Ollas (60:00) 23/24; UML Savory (57:51) 21/24 Penalties: Merrimack 3-6:00; UMass Lowell 6-23:00 Power Play: Merrimack 2 for 6; UMass Lowell 0 for 2 Attendance: 2,471 (2,549)
A version of this story will appear in The Eagle Tribune