NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) and Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL) each scored twice as #7/9 Merrimack clinched home ice in the Hockey East Quarterfinals for just the second time ever with a 6-1 victory over Providence College in front of a sellout crowd at Lawler Arena Friday night.
Merrimack (22-7-4, 16-7-3 HEA) concludes the regular season at Providence (7-19-8, 3-16-7 HEA) Saturday at Schneider Arena at 7 p.m.
For complete Hockey East Quarterfinal information including how to purchase tickets, log on to Merrimack's "Playoff Central 2011" page online at merrimackathletics.com. Tickets to the general public for Game 1 and 2 of the Quarterfinals are on sale now at merrimackathletics.com and at the box office. Tickets for all Merrimack staff will go on sale Monday at noon while all Merrimack student tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. on Monday.
The Warriors clinched a top-four spot in Hockey East with the victory and remain one point behind BU for the third spot. With BC winning, Merrimack can finish no higher than third but no worse than fourth. Providence must win Saturday and needs UMass to lose to have a chance to qualify for the postseason.
The Warriors came out strong, scoring three first-period goals, two from Flanigan.
The junior forward made it 1-0 at 6:40 as he took feeds from Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) and Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB) and wristed past Alex Beaudry for his ninth of the year.
Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) and Flanigan scored 26 seconds apart late in the period, as Merrimack outshot the visitors 14-8 in the first. Todd took feeds from Mike Collins (Boston, MA) and Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) and wristed it over the blocker of Beaudry for his team-leading 17th of the year at 15:23. Then at 15:49, Flanigan notched his 10th of the year and second of the period as he finished off a passing play from Carter Madsen (Okotoks, AB) and Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) to give the hosts the big lead through one period.
Tim Schaller got the Friars on the board just 16 seconds into the second with an outstanding individual effort, but Merrimack's power play, fueled by the return of Da Costa, extended the lead to 5-1 with a pair of goals 30 seconds apart, both of which resulted in tallies for Cucci.
The senior forward knocked in a rebound off a one-timer from Da Costa at 14:12 with Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) also getting an assist on the goal. Moments later, Cucci took feeds from Collins and Chris Barton (Calgary, AB) and buried it for his team-leading ninth power play tally of the year, giving Merrimack the four-goal lead through 40 minutes.
Da Costa rounded out the scoring with his third point of the evening, sniping a power-play tally at 14:05 of the third with Stollery and Barton getting assists.
Merrimack's power play was 3-for-5 in the victory and killed all five of Providence's man-advantages.
The Warriors outshot Providence 35-21 as Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) turned aside 18 shots in the win, before giving way to Nick Drew (Andover, MA) who stopped two shots in first collegiate appearance.
Da Costa and Collins each led the way with three points while Stollery, Flanigan, and Cucci all had multi-point games as 11 different Warriors picked up points.
Before the game, Merrimack honored its seven-member class of 2011, Fraser Allan (North Battleford, SK), Adam Ross (Red Deer, AB), Chris Barton (Calgary, AB), Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL), Francois Ouimet (Lorraine, QC), Bobby Kramer (New York, NY) and John Jamieson (Billerica, MA) The Class of 2011 is the winningest class in the history of Merrimack's Division I hockey history.