Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
NORTH ANDOVER, Ma. – Vermont’s third period comeback fell short on Friday night at Lawler Arena as Merrimack held on for a 4-1 Hockey East win to open a two-game league series on the final weekend of the regular season.
The Catamounts dropped to 12-19-3 (6-12-3 HEA), while the Warriors improved to 10-16-7 (4-10-7 HEA) to snap a four-game winless streak in the series.
UVM heads into its regular season finale on Saturday night needing a win or tie against Merrimack to clinch home ice in the Hockey East First Round. A tie between UNH and UConn would also result in a home series at Gutterson Fieldhouse next weekend.
Vermont had the better chances during a back-and-forth first period, but Merrimack freshman goaltender Drew Vogler was equal to the challenge. Vogler stopped Jarrid Privitera‘s high effort from the slot off a left wing feed from Brian Bowen, and later kicked out Brady Shaw‘s wrister from the slot with his right pad.
Merrimack took the lead at the 2:17 mark of the second period as Chris LeBlanc threw a high shot off the chest of Packy Munson (34 saves) from the left circle. LeBlanc gloved down his own rebound at the right doorstep and roofed a follow-up shot over an outstretched Munson for his sixth of the year.
Just after Vermont’s opening power play expired near the midway point of the game, the Warriors doubled their advantage. Hampus Gustafsson gained the UVM zone with speed down the right wing and set up Justin Hussar at the back door. Hussar’s first-time finish beat Munson blocker side for a 2-0 cushion.
Merrimack killed off the only penalty and blocked six Catamount shots in the middle frame, carrying the two-goal lead into the third.
The Warriors took advantage of a missed shorthanded opportunity for Vermont at 3:24 as Ben Bahe finished high glove side from outside the right dot. Alexx Privitera couldn’t reel in a centering pass from Jonathan Turk in the slot, feeding transition for Bahe who settled a bouncing puck and capitalized.
UVM got on the board eight minutes later as Shaw deflected an Yvan Pattyn shot low past the right pad of Vogler (23 saves). Dan Senkbeil worked the puck to the left point for the Catamount captain, and Shaw drifted through the slot to kill the shot’s momentum inside the left post.
The Catamounts carried the play for the next five minutes, spending consistent time in the Merrimack zone, but couldn’t put a second past Vogler. Jonathan Lashyn sealed the win for the Warriors with 2:32 left, converting quickly into the upper left corner from the right wing off a Vermont clearing attempt.
The teams return to Lawler Arena on Saturday (Feb. 27) to close the regular season at 7 p.m. Pre-game radio coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM, SportsJuice.com, and the TuneIn app with Alastair Ingram and Andy Merritt on the call. Live pay-per-view video is also available at MerrimackAthletics.TV.