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NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Freshman forward Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) had a goal and three assists as Merrimack moved to within one point of home ice, exploding for five third-period goals in a 6-3 victory over #18 Maine 6-3 in front of 2,547 fans at Lawler Arena Friday night.
Merrimack (14-16-1, 11-12-1 HEA) and Maine (15-13-3, 12-10-2 HEA) take the ice again Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lawler Arena. Limited tickets are available for purchase online at merrimackathletics.com and the Merrimack box office.
The win gives Merrimack 12 home victories, the most in its Division I history and gives the Warriors wins over all nine Hockey East opponents in a season for the first time ever. The 11 Hockey East wins are the most since 1996-97.
Bobby Kramer (New York, NY) netted the game-winning goal at 9:05 of third, perfectly executing a four-on-two with Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY), Carter Madsen (Okotoks, AB) and Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) for his first goal of the season and second of his career.
Kramer's goal came up after David DeKastrozza and Jeff Dimmen scored 41 seconds apart to tie the game at three. Before the Black Bears tied the game, Chris Barton (Calgary, AB) gave Merrimack the lead 14 seconds into the third with his second of the game, and Bigos made it 3-1 at 2:13, after dribbling through the defense and beating Scott Darling glove side for his third of the season.
Da Costa followed Kramer's goal with his 15th of the season at 11:54 of the third, extending the hosts' lead to two goals. He took a feed from Justin Bonitatibus (Arlington, MA), who tallied a career-high three assists in the win, and dribbled from his own zone through two Maine defenders and fired it past the glove of Darling for the goal.
Eighty-nine seconds later, Fraser Allan (North Battleford, SK) scored his first of the year, drilling a slapper from the blue line, giving Merrimack the 6-3 advantage and sending Darling to the bench for the remainder of the game.
Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) picked up the win in goal, stopping 34 shots, including 19 in the third, while also getting an assist on Bigos' goal. Darling finished with 24 saves in 53:23 of action.
Maine was awarded eight of the game's first nine power plays, and Merrimack prevailed, killing seven of them. Cannata kept the score tied at one in the second, making a highlight-reel breakaway glove save, robbing Joey Diamond of a possible go-ahead goal. Diamond skated in alone, got Cannata to go down to his right, but Cannata threw his glove to the left and gloved the puck along the ice to preserve the tie.
With the nation's top power play on a two-man advantage for 1:36, Tanner House got the Black Bears on the board with his 14th of the year, taking feeds from Brian Flynn and Dimmen and one-timing it in at 13:32 of the first.
But the Warriors responded 2:01 later as Barton notched his 18th of the season, tying the game. Barton took a pass from Da Costa and one-timed it over the glove of Darling.
The victory puts the Warriors in seventh place, tied with UMass Amherst, but Merrimack holds the tie-breaker with the Minutemen. Merrimack trails Boston University, UMass Lowell, and Northeastern by one point for fourth place.
Eleven different Merrimack players registered points in the victory, with the first line of Da Costa, Barton, and Bonitatibus combining for nine points. J.C. Robitaille (Des Ruisseaux, QC) made his return to the lineup after missing four games and picked up two assists.
The two teams combined for 70 penalty minutes, with 48 of them going to Merrimack.
The Warriors limited the nation's best power play to two goals in nine opportunities.