By Brian Willwerth
BOSTON, MA – Merrimack College entered Saturday night’s game at Northeastern as one of only two unbeaten teams left in the country. The Warriors stayed that way thanks to a dramatic victory.
Ryan Flanigan scored a shorthanded goal with just over three minutes remaining in overtime, as Merrimack defeated Northeastern, 3-2, in a physical game at Matthews Arena.
“I’m very proud of the effort tonight,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “I thought our guys played better as the game went on. Northeastern puts a lot of pressure on you… then we responded.”
In the first period, just after the Huskies’ initial power play had expired, they broke out on top first. Joseph Manno and Mike McLaughlin broke in on an odd-man rush, and McLaughlin finished it off by beating Joe Cannata to put NU up, 1-0. It was McLaughlin’s third goal of the season.
Just over three minutes later, the Huskies got another highlight-reel goal. Rob Dongara took a beautiful feed from McLaughlin and beat Cannata to make it 2-0.
“I thought we started off really well,” said Huskies’ head coach Jim Madigan. “What happened in the first period was going to be our downfall as the game went along…too many bad penalties.”
The first of those penalties came later in the period. John Manson got a major penalty and game misconduct for hitting from behind. The Warriors took advantage with 47 seconds remaining on the man advantage. Mike Collins’ wrist shot beat Chris Rawlings to make it 2-1. It’s Collins’ first goal of the season. The Warriors outshot the Huskies in the opening period, 8-5.
In the second period, the Huskies got an early 5-on-3 advantage, but could not add to their lead. Another NU power play did produce any scoring. Both Rawlings and Cannata were solid in their respective nets. Rawlings turned away all 11 shots from the Warriors, while Cannata stopped all nine coming from the sticks of NU players.
Merrimack tied the game on the power play with 8:30 to go in the 3rd period. Mike Collins scored his second goal of the game, almost a carbon-copy of his first one, to make it 2-2.
“When you’re struggling, frustration sets in,” said Madigan. “The puck movement isn’t as fluid. That’s something we’ll have to get better at.”
Merrimack’s Carter Madsen became the second player to get record a major penalty/game misconduct for hitting from behind. But the Huskies could not cash in. Then with 1.7 seconds left, Kyle Bigos was whistled for high sticking, a penalty that carried over into overtime. In OT, Rhett Bly flipped the puck high out of the defensive end, into the glove of Flanigan, who broke in alone on Rawlings and did the rest.
“I didn’t see (Flanigan’s) celebration,” said Dennehy. “He finished it off pretty nice.”
Both teams return to action Friday night. The Warriors travel to Boston University, while the Huskies go on the road to take on Boston College.