Freshman forward Mike Collins and junior forward Jesse Todd score goals for Warriors
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NO. ANDOVER, Mass. - Mike Collins (Boston, MA) and Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) scored as #5/6 Merrimack moved into second place in Hockey East after sweeping UMass 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 2,489 at Lawler Arena Saturday night.
Merrimack (21-5-4, 15-5-3 HEA) will head to #19 Maine for a pair of games next weekend with the Black Bears at Alfond Arena. The Warriors need just one point to clinch home ice in the Hockey East Quarterfinals for just the second time ever in its 22-year Hockey East history.
UMass (6-18-5, 5-13-5 HEA) will battle #1 BC next weekend beginning next Friday at the Mullins Center.
With Boston College losing to Northeastern 2-1, Merrimack moves into a tie with BC in second place in Hockey East with 33 points, but the Warriors own the tiebreaker over the Eagles after winning the season series. Merrimack trails UNH by two points for first place in Hockey East and owns the tiebreaker over the Wildcats.
The victory gives Merrimack 14 wins in its last 15 games and improves its home record to 11-2-1 on the season.
Merrimack dominated the first period, outshooting the Minutemen 21-7 while taking a 1-0 lead as Collins netted his 10th of the season at 11:09. Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) stole the puck from a UMass forward and backhanded it up to Collins, who broke in on a 2-on-1 with Todd. Collins looked off Todd and fired a wrister that beat Paul Dainton short side to give the hosts the first period lead.
Todd made it 2-0 on the power play at 4:35 of the second, as the junior took a cross-crease pass from Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) that Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) also got a stick on and wristed it home for his team-leading 16th of the year. Todd's goal proved to be the game-winner, his fifth of the year, which ranks among the Hockey East leaders.
The Warriors' penalty kill took over from there, killing off three second-period minors while allowing just five shots in the second frame, as Merrimack had the 35-12 shots advantage through 40 minutes.
T.J. Syner got the Minutemen on the board at 10:34 of the third on the power play with his eighth of the year, but the Warriors held from there, earning their fifth straight win over the Minutemen.
Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) stopped 15 shots for the win as Merrimack outshot UMass 39-15.
The victory is Cannata's 38th career win, which sets a Division I school record for victories by a goaltender.
Dainton kept the Minutemen in it early, finishing with 39 saves, including 33 in the first 40 minutes.