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GRAND FORKS, ND - Junior captain Chris Barton scored twice, but the Merrimack hockey team fell to #6/8 North Dakota 3-2 Saturday night in front of 11,603 fans at the Engelstad Arena.
OTHER LINKS: Mark Dennehy Audio (mp3)
Merrimack falls to 0-2 on the season while the Fighting Sioux are 2-0. The Warriors return home to host Holy Cross in the home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. and Army on Saturday at 7 p.m. All general admission tickets to the home opener are $5.
For the second straight night, the Fighting Sioux struck on their first shot, as Brett Hextall beat Andrew Braithwaite on his short side at 4:11 of the first. But it was the Warriors who controlled most of the play in the first period, as they outshot North Dakota 7-5. Joe Cucci had the best chance of the first as Barton fed him while on the power play, but his shot was stopped by Brad Eidsness at point-blank range.
Merrimack's strong effort was rewarded for as Barton netted his second goal in as many nights, 32 seconds into the second, getting a great centering feed from Jesse Todd, and beating Eidsness far side to even the game at one.
The Warriors kept attacking, drawing a five-minute penalty but could not cash in. With 2:45 remaining in the period, a rebound off a Barton shot came right to Brandon Brodhag who was playing in his first career game, but his shot eluded Eidsness and ricocheted right off the post.
The Fighting Sioux regained the lead when Michael Cichy picked up his first collegiate goal 7:15 into the second with Chay Genoway and Carter Rowney getting the assists.
Unfortunately, not scoring on the major penalty was a turning point as the Warriors took five consecutive minor penalties afterwards, and on the fifth straight power play for UND, Jake Marto finally beat Braithwaite, giving the hosts the important two-goal lead with 11:07 remaining.
Led by Barton, the Warriors remained in the game, as the junior captain got his own rebound and wristed it underneath Eidsness' pads to cut the lead to one with 3:52 remaining. Todd and J.C. Robitaille earned the assists on Barton's third of the weekend.
But Merrimack could not even the score even after Braithwaite came up with a huge glove save on a Rowney breakaway seconds after Barton's second goal. Moments later, John Jamieson was stopped as he chipped away at a rebound off a Brandon Sadlowski shot. With Braithwaite pulled, Todd found Barton in front of Aidsness, but his shot was partially deflected and went right to the Fighting Sioux goaltender.
After outshooting North Dakota 7-5 in the first, the Fighting Sioux fired 28 of the next 33 shots and outshot the Warriors 35-18 for the game. The Warriors were 0-for-3 on the power play for the second straight game, while the hosts were 1-for-7, with their man advantage goal proving to be the game-winner.
Braithwaite was sharp in first start of the season, stopping 32 shots.