Comeback kids steal win from Merrimack, sweep series

UMass hockey win 4-3 in overtime Saturday night

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Caroline O'Connor - UMass Athletics

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

NORTH ANDOVER—Saturday night’s game was not for the faint of heart.

In the second game of a home-and-home against Merrimack, the No. 16 Massachusetts hockey team tied the contest with 33 seconds left in regulation with an extra skater and then won it on Marc Del Gaizo’s clincher in overtime.

Philip Lagunov scored the equalizer with time ticking down and Marc Del Gaizo tapped a rebound into the yawing cage to seal the 4-3 win.

The victory marked UMass’ (5-1-0, 2-0-0 Hockey East) first regulation overtime win in two years, the previous one when the Minutemen beat Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 at the Mariucci Classic.

“We’ve won some big games since we’ve been here, you know beating Ohio State and beating Northeastern and Providence last year, this is the grittiest win we’ve had since we’ve been here,” coach Greg Carvel said. “A game where we weren’t our best and the other team was playing very well and playing in their building and knows how to play here, and for us to kind of take the punches and then at the end hit the knockout is a good sign for our team.”

“It was an odd-man rush, there was a minute left, it was a good opportunity for us to score and it worked out,” Marc Del Gaizo said of his game-winner.

The Warriors (2-5-0, 1-2-0 HEA) didn’t make it easy for UMass, clogging up passing lanes and pressuring puck-carriers all evening but the Minutemen prevailed, sweeping Merrimack for its fifth win.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking for sure, and to get the win in front of their home crowd is pretty special,” Cale Makar said.

Jacob Pritchard finished with a three-point night (goal, two assists), John Leonard added a pair of helpers and Filip Lindberg turned aside 26 saves.

The Warriors wasted no time, scoring 1:09 into the game. The initial shot popped out of Lindberg’s glove and Merrimack regained possession in front with Patrick Kramer sweeping it in to give the home team a quick 1-0 edge.

The Minutemen earned a five-minute power play in the late stages of the first following a Sami Tavernier hit-from-behind major and game misconduct. Pritchard scored his second in as many games with a shot from the right faceoff dot that eluded Warrior goalie Craig Pantano (21 saves).

With the power play carrying over into the second from the major, UMass went to work again. Makar found Pritchard down low and he then distributed a slick pass to Mitchell Chaffee in the slot who powered it past Pantano, putting the Minutemen up 2-1, 31 seconds into the period.

Kramer scored his second of the night on a goal right out front. UMass was a little too loose in its own zone and Kramer was untouched in front, tying the game back up at 2-2.

Like the first period, Merrimack looked shot out of a cannon in the third. Following a Chau turnover near the Minutemen blueline, Dominic Dockery won a race to the puck in the corner and found a streaking Tyler Drevitch, who pushed the puck past Lindberg just 35 ticks into the final period.

“We’ve talked about it and resetting and refocusing after goals and games and beginning of periods and ends of periods,” Carvel said. “But for some reason those are the times we’re getting scored on and we’ve got to address that.”

With Lindberg pulled, Lagunov tied the score with his second marker of the season, sending the game to extra time.

“Any personnel that we put on the ice, you know guys are going to make it work to the plan. I think that’s what we did,” said Makar of going 6-on-5. “Lucky for us we executed it to a tee, obviously with a few flaws but I think a few lucky bounces and we got the puck in the net.”

Then following a magnificent rush from Makar, the Minutemen were pressing and after a flurry of stops from Pantano, the puck was laying all alone for Marc Del Gaizo to sweep in.

“I think this will be big for us because of the way win it,” Carvel said. “We just haven’t won many games that way, we’ve won games playing really well 5-on-5 but to dig deep and find a way to win when I don’t think we were the better team tonight, that says a lot about what we can do this year.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on [email protected]_RyanAmes.