BURLINGTON, Vt. - Merrimack scored two goals in the each of the first and third periods and held off Vermont for a 4-1 victory in Hockey East action on Saturday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts fall to 6-9-4 (3-6-4 HEA) with their first loss in a month, while the Warriors improve to 7-8-4 (5-4-1 HEA).
"Merrimack's an excellent team with the lead and we gave them two easy goals to start the game," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "It's hard to dig yourself out of a hole against a team that's excellent defensively. You can't give them easy ones. You've got to make them earn it and I don't think we did that. Offensively we just didn't have a very good night."
Merrimack took the lead at the 8:18 mark of the first period as Mike Collins took a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. The Catamounts blocked the shot in front of Brody Hoffman, but the rebound found Connor Toomey and he wristed the puck into the open net from the right side.
The Warriors doubled their lead roughly four minutes later off a 2-on-1 in transition. Merrimack lobbed the puck out of its zone to the Vermont blueline and Kyle Singleton skated onto it down the left side. The sophomore faked a pass to his right before lifting a shot over Hoffman's shoulder at the left post.
The visitors took simultaneous penalties at 18:44 of the first to give the Catamounts a 5-on-3 for two minutes, but Sam Marotta made an outstretched left pad save near the end of the frame on Jacob Fallon. Vermont couldn't find a way past Marotta on the remainder of the two-man advantage but earned another opportunity five minutes into the second.
On the ensuing power play, Nick Luukko slid a pass to Chris McCarthy at the top of the left circle. The junior fired a low shot that was stopped by the left pad of Marotta, but the puck kicked out to Fallon at the right doorstep. The forward stuck it home from a weak angle to cut the Merrimack lead in half.
UVM had two power plays in the third period but couldn't tie the game. At 8:41 of the final frame, Brian Christie grabbed an insurance goal for Merrimack on a 4-on-4 as he stuffed in a rebound through Hoffman's pads. Brendan Ellis then tipped in a shot from Shawn Bates on a 2-on-1 at 15:51 to seal the victory for the Warriors.
Hoffman finished the night with 19 saves for the Cats, while Marotta stopped 23 shots at the other end for his fourth win of the season. Vermont was 1-5 on the power play, while Merrimack scored once on its two opportunities. Kyle Reynolds posted a team-high six shots in a losing effort.
The Catamounts return to Gutterson Fieldhouse next weekend as they host UMass Lowell at 7:05 p.m. on Friday (Jan. 11) and Saturday (Jan. 12). All the action can be heard beginning at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and online at SportsJuice.com. The Saturday game will be televised on WCAXtra, and live online video is available for free both nights on CatamounTV. The teams tied 1-1 in the season opener on Oct. 12 in Lowell.
NOTES: Vermont snapped a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) on Saturday, which dated back to Dec. 5, 2012 ... Brett Bruneteau skated in his 80th career game on Saturday, while Chris McCarthy is now just five games shy of 100 ... McCarthy has 10 points in his last nine games, while Jacob Fallon has six points in his last five contests ... Vermont continues a stretch of seven home games in eight contests next weekend against UMass Lowell ... The Catamounts are 6-for-23 on the power play in their last five games.