January 4, 2014

Merrimack, Providence College fit to be tied at Fenway

By Jesse Connolly

Captain Jordan Heywood and the Warriors hung on for a 1-1 tie with the No. 4 team in the nation. Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)


Final: Merrimack 1, Providence College 1 (OT)

Recap: The first 38 minutes of Saturday's game could be summed up in a single word: uneventful. Nick Ellis and Rasmus Tirronen combined to stop all 36 shots they faced in the first two frames.

The first exciting moment of the contest came with a little over a minute left in the second period, when junior forward Connor Toomey (Billerica, Mass.) was unsuccessful on a penalty shot attempt.

In the third, the Friars were called for a pair of penalties 62 seconds apart, with Kevin Hart (Cumberland, Maine) following Derek Army (North Kingstown, R.I.) to the penalty box. Merrimack capitalized on the 5-on-3, with Mike Collins (Roslindale, Mass.) ripping a feed from Brendan Ellis high glove side on a shot from the bottom of the near faceoff circle, giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead. 

The first lead of the contest lasted just 2:26. PC captain Steven Shamanski came down low on the man advantage and faked Tirronen out of his pads before backhanding a shot into the back of the net. A flurry of penalties in the closing minutes gave each club a few golden scoring chances at crunch time, but after that, the opportunities were few and far between. 

Tirronen stopped all three shots he faced in the extra session, while the Warriors failed to put a single puck on net in overtime.

Records: Merrimack (4-9-3, 1-5-3); Providence (13-3-4, 6-2-2)

Key Play of the Game: It's remarkable a winner wasn't determined, as both teams had man advantages late in the third period and into overtime. The Warriors killed off a Jordan Heywood holding call made at 17:05 of the third, while the Friars survived without Kevin Rooney (Canton, Mass.) for the final 18 ticks of regulation and 1:42 of overtime play.

Connolly's Commendations: Ellis and Tirronen may have been solved in the final frame of regulation, but they were never tested more than during a power-play-filled third period. Tirronen finished as the game's No. 3 star with 32 stops on 33 shots.

Collins was buzzing all night for the Warriors. Merrimack's alternate captain had a game-high six shots on goal and, of course, buried his team's lone tally.

Merrimack pivot Rhett Bly was the only player to have noteworthy success on faceoffs. The third-line center won 13-of-21 draws, good for a 62-percent success rate.

Shamanski extended his point streak to three games (2g, 2a) with his game-tying tally in the third. The senior blueliner now has five goals on the season, equaling his total in that category during the first three years combined at PC.

Connolly's Critiques: It was a quiet evening for Mark Jankowski. The Calgary Flames prospect had just one shot on net and has now gone eight straight games without a goal.

Notes: Merrimack has just one win in their last nine games. ... Ellis has gotten the start for the Friars in four straight games, as Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine) was away at the World Juniors and served as a spectactor for this contest. Ellis is 2-1-1 during that stretch with a .933 save percentage. ... Toomey's penalty shot was the first the Warriors have taken since 2009. Their last was an unsucessful bid against -- coincidentally -- Providence.

Final Thoughts: After an undeniably dull first two periods, the Warriors and Friars did their best to make up for it in the third period, injecting some life into Fenway crowd when they ramped up the intensity and the chippiness. Ultimately, neither team generated enough dazzling chances to give their squad the victory. Nevertheless, it's a bit of a win for Merrimack, as the Warriors held their own against the No. 4 team in the nation.

Next: The Friars will be back at it on Tuesday when they host Northeastern. Merrimack's next tilt comes at Clarkson Friday night.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com