ORONO, ME – Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) made 41 saves, but Mike Collins' (Boston, MA) power play goal was all #14 Merrimack could muster as #10 Maine edged the Warriors 2-1 in game one of the Hockey East Quarterfinals at Alfond Arena.
Merrimack (17-11-7) and Maine (21-11-3) will meet in game two of the Hockey East Quarterfinals Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Alfond Arena in a must-win game for the Warriors. The game will be shown across New England on WBIN with Merrimack All-Access airing immediately after game two.
With Cannata on the bench in the final minute, Merrimack had its chances, but Dan Sullivan stopped both Collins and Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) on the doorstep, while four other shots whistled wide past the traffic in front.
In the first 10 minutes of the game, Cannata made a pair of great saves on Joey Diamond, including off a 3-on-1. Minutes later, Merrimack was awarded a five-minute power play after Jon Swavely was assessed a major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
With 52 seconds left on the major, Merrimack got its first power play shot and cashed in as Collins beat Sullivan with a wrister over his glove from the faceoff circle at 15:33. Connor Toomey (Billerica, MA) picked up the assist on Collins' seventh power play goal of the season and 10th overall in his sophomore campaign.
Cannata made all 12 saves as Maine outshot Merrimack 12-7 in the first 20 minutes.
But the Black Bears answered in the second, firing 19 shots in the middle frame and tied it off a breakaway tally from Diamond at 7:50. Then at 12:04, Kyle Beattie gave the hosts the lead as his wrister beat Cannata high for his sixth of the year.
Cannata turned aside 17 second-period shots, including a great stop on Mark Anthoine during a Black Bear power play with 2:30 left in the period.
Merrimack rattled off six of the first nine shots in the third period, highlighted by three consecutive quality chances from Jesse Todd (Calgary, MA) and a left pad stop by Sullivan off the blade of Rhett Bly (Regina, SK).
Merrimack's power play went 1-for-5 in the game, while the Warriors killed off all three Maine power plays. The Black Bears entered Friday with the top power play in the country.
Maine outshot the Warriors 43-21, getting 31 shots in the game's first 40 minutes.
The Warriors lost for just the second time this season when scoring first. They were 14-1-5 in the regular season, losing only at BU in January.
The 41 saves for Merrimack's Hobey Baker nominee were the most this season and just four shy of his career high of forty-four.
Merrimack will need to win both Saturday and Sunday in Orono or its season will come to an end this weekend.
Friday's game marked the first live television broadcast by the Merrimack Sports Network on the road.
Merrimack All-Access premiered before the game on WBIN. The inside look at the Merrimack hockey program will reair following Saturday's game.