NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - The Merrimack College men's ice hockey team honored its Class of 2014 representatives as part of Senior Night, but visiting New Hampshire scored five of the game's six final goals, as the Wildcats topped the Warriors, 5-2, in the final game of the regular season on Saturday night at Lawler Rink.
After Merrimack scored the game's first goal, New Hampshire responded with all three markers in the second period and bookended the Warriors' second goal of the game with two more in the third to split the weekend series.
Junior Quinn Gould (Fort McMurray, Alberta) tallied his second goal of the weekend for the Warriors to cap off a four-point, two-game stretch; sophomore Ben Bahe (Stillwater, Minn.) registered Merrimack's second goal in the third, scoring for the first time since Jan. 18 against Quinnipiac.
The theme for Saturday was Merrimack's domination on the shot chart, as the hosts held a 51-21 advantage in shots on goal; New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith, however, was incredible, turning away 49 shots for the Wildcats to improve to 17-14-0 on the year.
Penalties also dominated Saturday night's affair, as both sides combined 44 penalty minutes, the third-highest amount in a game this season. Twenty-eight of those minutes came in the first, when the Warriors took a 1-0 lead after posting a dominating 20-5 advantage in shot attempts.
A nearly hour-long first period saw Merrimack take a lead midway through the period, but that was just the start of an eventful 20 minutes to start the contest.
Gould's second goal of the weekend came at 11:14 with the Warriors on the power play, after senior Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) took a feed from classmate Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, British Columbia) and directed it on net from a sharp angle. Waiting in front for the rebound was Gould, who stuffed it home to make it 1-0.
After that, the penalties mounted, as both sides combined for 28 minutes' worth of infractions in the opening stanza. Two pairs of coincidental penalties and an additional whistle gave New Hampshire a power play that was subsequently nullified by an additional UNH penalty, but then the Warriors gave the advantage right back on an additional interference call.
Finally, UNH's Grayson Dowling was whistled for both a cross-checking minor and a 10-minute misconduct at the 16:38 mark to give the Warriors one last abbreviated power play. Before that, junior Justin Mansfield (Arlington, Mass.) nearly put the Warriors up by two on a wraparound chance but was barely denied. A video replay upheld the no-goal call, sending Merrimack into the intermission with one-goal advantage.
Despite Merrimack continuing to dominate shot attempts, New Hampshire exploded for three more goals in the second, starting with a power-play strike from Brett Pesce at 12:21 before Dalton Speelman scored just seven seconds later off the ensuing draw. Nick Sorkin made it a 3-1 advantage for the Wildcats with 39 seconds left in the period.
Merrimack's strong numbers on the shot chart continued into the third, but goals were still tough to come by until Bahe brought the home side to within one at 7:41, stuffing in a rebound off an initial shot by freshman Hampus Gustafsson (Ljungby, Sweden) with the secondary assist going to freshman Jonathan Lashyn (Camrose, Alberta).
DeSmith would fend off the remainder of Merrimack's chances, while the Wildcats added two more - including an empty-netter - to close out the game.