NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Behind the first career hat trick from Carter Madsen (Okotoks, AB) and nine points from his line, #9 Merrimack advanced to the Hockey East Semifinals for the second time in school history with a 6-2 victory over #14 Maine in front of a sellout crowd at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack (24-8-4) will take on either Boston College or New Hampshire next Friday at the TD Garden in Boston. If Boston University defeats Northeastern Sunday, Merrimack will play BC at 5 p.m. If Northeastern defeats BU, Merrimack will play UNH at 8 p.m. Both semifinal games will be broadcast live on NESN.
Tickets to all games next weekend are on sale now at the Merrimack box office and the TD Garden box office. Fans can also purchase tickets online at ticketmaster.com.
After finishing the regular season unbeaten in its final seven games, Maine's (17-12-7) season comes to an end at the hands of the Warriors, who defeated Maine three times in five meetings this season.
Madsen, and his linemates Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) and Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB) combined for nine points in Saturday's win and 16 points on the weekend. Flanigan had a goal and three assists Saturday, while Sheen, who had his first-career two-goal and three-point game Friday, had two assists tonight.
The Warriors drew first blood as Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) notched his sixth of the year, burying a breakaway at 14:01 after taking a lead pass from Flanigan.
Merrimack took control in the second, outshooting the Black Bears 16-6 and led 4-1 through two periods.
Madsen made it 2-0 at 3:57 as he took feeds from his linemates and beat Dan Sullivan between the legs with a wrister from the faceoff circle for his eighth of the year.
Mike Collins (Boston, MA) potted a power-play goal at 9:08 as he broke in alone and beat Sullivan blocker side for his 12th, taking passes from Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) and Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB).
Brian Flynn got the visitors on the board at 10:52, but Flanigan made it a three-goal game again at 13:19 with his 12th of the season. The junior came out of the penalty box and Velleca fed him up ice for a breakaway which he put away for his third point of the game.
Madsen completed his hat trick in the third, notching his second of the game at 1:36 and completing it at 16:31 behind the third assist of the night for Flanigan.
Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) was sharp in net, earning his 41st career win with 29 saves, including 14 in the third period.
Merrimack finishes the 2010-11 campaign 14-2-1 at home. They won their final eight home games, which featured sellouts in the final five.
The Warriors won the season series from both UNH and BC, winning two of three games from both teams this season.
Merrimack last advanced to the TD Garden in 1998 after upsetting Boston University in the quarterfinals.
The two-game sweep marked the first two wins for Merrimack in its Hockey East playoff history at Lawler Arena.