ORONO, ME – Rhett Bly (Regina, SK) notched his first career two-goal game as #14 Merrimack evened its best-of-three quarterfinal series, defeating #10 Maine 5-2 at Alfond Arena to force a decisive game three Sunday.
Merrimack (18-11-7) and Maine (21-12-3) will meet in a deciding game three of the quarterfinal series Sunday at 7 p.m. in Orono. The game will be televised live nationally on Fox College Sports Pacific and locally on WBIN. Merrimack All-Access will have a special encore presentation following game three on WBIN.
By staving off elimination, Merrimack can advance to its second-straight and third-ever Hockey East Semifinals with a win Sunday over the Black Bears.
After going winless at Maine for 24 games (0-22-2), Merrimack now has won twice this season in Orono and can become the second team to ever win a quarterfinal series at Maine with a victory Sunday.
In a first period that featured 34 penalty minutes and five matching minors, Merrimack led 2-1 after 20 minutes on goals from Bly and Josh Myers (Colorado Springs, CO).
After Matt Mangene scored shorthanded at 3:51, Bly answered back at 5:39, gathering a rebound off a Jordan Heywood (Regina, SK) shot and firing it into the net for his fifth of the year.
Three seconds after Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) rang one off the cross bar, Myers notched his fifth of the year on the power play at 13:33. Connor Toomey (Billerica, MA) won the faceoff right to Myers, who darted immediately toward the net and beat Dan Sullivan high on a wide angle shot to give the Warriors the lead.
After only getting 21 shots Friday night, the Warriors fired 16 first-period shots, three from Myers.
Outshooting Maine 14-7 in the second, Merrimack erupted for two goals in a 20-second span late in the period to take a three goal lead into the third.
First, Jeff Velleca (Waterbury, CT) backhanded a rebound past Sullivan at 17:55 off a Simon Demers (St. Etienne de Lauzon, QC) slapper for his 10th of the year. Then at 18:15, Bly struck again gathering a loose puck in between the circles and putting it past Sullivan for his first career two goal game.
Adam Shemansky cut Merrimack's lead to two as he notched his 11th of the season during a two-man advantage at 8:03 of the third.
But the Warriors held from there, killing three late Maine power plays, while Dan Kolomatis (Basking Ridge, NJ) netted his first career goal into the empty net with two seconds left.
The teams combined for 184 penalty minutes, as Merrimack went 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
Cannata became the program's all-time Division I leader for saves in a career with 28 saves. He passed Marty Legault (3,120) with his 26th save Saturday.
Senior captain Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) tied the program's all-time record for games played in a career with 144 and will likely break the record Sunday. Stollery has missed one game in his career.
Merrimack was well represented Saturday, as approximately 200 students, 10% of the college's enrollment, were in attendance Saturday night, as four fan buses made the four-hour drive north to Orono.
Four Merrimack defensemen notched points, including Demers, who tallied his first point since October 23, 2009. In all, ten Warriors had points in the win.