March 2, 2012

#12 Merrimack Falls to UMass 5-1; Hosts UMass Saturday in Regular Season Finale

AMHERST, MA – T.J Syner scored the game-winner in the third period and added an assist as the University of Massachusetts clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory over #12 Merrimack Friday night at the Mullins Center.                  

Merrimack (16-10-7, 12-9-5 HEA) concludes the regular season Saturday night against UMass at 7 p.m. at Lawler Arena on Senior Night. A very limited amount of tickets are available for purchase online at merrimackathletics.com or by calling the ticket office at 978-837-5324.

Having clinched no worse than fifth in the Hockey East standings, Merrimack can only take fourth with a win and a Maine tie or loss, or a tie combined with a Maine loss. Maine hosts UNH at 4 p.m. Saturday.  

With Lowell winning Friday, Merrimack will play Maine for the second straight year in the Hockey East Quarterfinals with the location to be decided Saturday.  The Warriors will need to at least win the quarterfinals to have a chance for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Merrimack struggled in the first, getting outshot 10-3 by the Minutemen and trailed 1-0 after one as Danny Hobbs scored his 11th of the year, redirecting a Joel Hanley slapper at 19:33. Merrimack actually could have trailed 2-0 but an apparent goal from Patrick Kiley was disallowed at 11:32 after a video review.  Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) kept the Warriors in it with nine saves, including a great left pad stop on Rocco Carzo late in the period.

The Warriors hit a pair of posts and had a goal disallowed in the first 2:30 of a scoreless second period. Merrimack outshot the Minutemen 13-5 and had plenty of chances, highlighted by a wraparound from Justin Mansfield (Arlington, MA) and two consecutive point-blank chances from Mike Collins (Boston, MA), but Kevin Boyle stopped all 13 shots in the period.

Merrimack finally broke through at 1:23 of the third as Shawn Bates (Ft. Saskatchewan, AB) scored his first goal in 17 games to even the score at one. Bates took a feed from Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, CO) in the slot and blasted over Boyle's glove for his fifth of the year. Collins also picked up an assist, his 30th career on the tying goal.

But with Bates in the penalty box minutes later, T .J. Syner put the hosts back in front as his wrister from the faceoff circle beat Cannata over the glove for his 12th of the year on the power play at 5:48.

With the Warriors pressing for the tying tally, Darren Rowe added the insurance marker as he was left wide open in the slot and buried a feed from Tyner for his second of the year at 14:28.

Branden Gracel and Kevin Czepiel each picked up empty netters in the final 2:47 for the hosts.

UMass finished 1-for-4 on the power play, but the one man advantage goal was the game-winner, while Merrimack was 0-for-3.

Saturday's regular season finale will also decide the season series with UMass. Merrimack is 3-3-2 in season series this year in Hockey East.