BOSTON – It was déjà vu all over again for Northeastern and Merrimack as the teams headed to overtime for the second straight game in their back-to-back weekend set on Saturday at Matthews Arena.
Senior Ryan Flanigan scored a shorthanded goal at 1:57 of the overtime period, extending his 15-game point streak dating back to last season as the Warriors bested Northeastern by a 3-2 count for their second straight victory in extra time on St. Botolph Street.
“This is one of the benefits of having a veteran team,” said MC head coach Mark Dennehy. “They coach themselves to a certain extent…We had our upperclassmen calming everybody down and saying we [had] plenty of game left.”
“I’m very proud of the effort tonight. I thought we got better as the game went on. Northeastern puts a lot of pressure on you early and they did early for sure, but we responded. Good win, especially when you get points on the road.”
The win was Merrimack’s first in the extra session on the road since Feb. 18, 2011 at UMass.
The Huskies wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, doing so at the 4:53 mark of the first period when freshman Joseph Manno set up captain Mike McLaughlin for his third goal of the season and first since starting the season with a three-game point scoring streak.
NU doubled its lead at the 8:04 mark of the stanza as McLaughlin set up sophomore Rob Dongara for his first goal since February’s Beanpot Championship against Boston College, taking the pass on the right side of the net and beating Merrimack’s Joe Cannata high on the right post.
Dongara took a nifty pass from McLaughlin as he entered the zone and lifted a backhander on Cannata for the score.
Huskies freshman Josh Manson was given the gate at the 14:22 mark as he was called for a hitting from behind penalty – Northeastern’s second five-minute major infraction in as many games.
“I thought we started out really well,” said Huskies head coach Jim Madigan. “Obviously, a 2-0 lead, we had all our lines going. What happened in the first period was going to be our downfall throughout the game was bad penalties.”
“It happened last night with the five-minute major, it happened again tonight and I’ve got a good power play and we were too undisciplined…We’ve got the right guys but when you are struggling, frustration sets in and sticks are a little tighter.”
At the tail end, Merrimack’s power play unit was able to cut their deficit to 2-1 when sophomore Mike Collins scored his fourth of the season on a wrist shot through a screen, beating Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings cleanly on a puck that he had trouble seeing.
“Probably the biggest goal of the game was our first goal,” Dennehy said. “Just because all of a sudden it was a one-goal game, back to being a hockey game.”
In the period, the Warriors out-chanced Northeastern by a 14-7 advantage, including an 8-5 edge in shots on goal.
It was a very uneventful second period on both sides with no scoring and just three minor penalties – all for the Warriors. Merrimack held the advantage in total chances by a slim 20-18 margin in the period, including 11-9 in shots on goal.
In the third period, both teams picked up the pace once again as Merrimack was able to muster the equalizing score when Collins potted his second of the game on a shot from the exact same spot on the top of the right-hand circle.
Karl Stollery and Jordan Heywood set up the Boston native’s fifth of the season. Collins was also the last Merrimack player to pot two goals in a game as he did the same on Oct. 29 in a 4-2 win at Vermont.
Similar to Merrimack’s first-period chance, Northeastern drew a late five-minute power play as Warrior senior Carter Madsen was called for a hit from behind with 5:44 to play.
The Huskies went on a man-advantage with two seconds to play in regulation, but Merrimack scored their second shorthanded goal of the season and first since Jesse Todd’s score vs. Maine on Oct. 7 as Rhett Bly sprung Flanigan for his fifth goal of the season, beating Rawlings five-hole.
“You get a blocked shot with one guy going the wrong way,” Dennehy said. “I don’t think it’s anything we necessarily draw up, just some good instincts. Good flip by [Bly] there. I did not see [Flanigan’s] celebration, but I can only imagine. He finished it off very nice.”
With the win, the Warriors are ensured the season series victory for the second year – in a row – with two wins and a tie against the Huskies.
“We’re probably mirror images of each other,” Dennehy added. “Both teams play really hard. [At Matthews Arena], there’s not a lot of room our there. If you don’t have courage, you’re going to get found out in a hurry and I’ve got a pretty courageous group on the other side.”
The Warriors finished the game with a heavy 31-19 shots advantage, including 11-5 in the third period and 1-0 in overtime.
Rawlings made 28 savs for the Huskies, keeping them in until the very end. Cannata stopped 17 as the Warriors remained unblemished on the season.
Merrimack remains unbeaten on the season at 7-0-1 and 5-0-1 in conference play heading into a Friday night match at Boston University’s Agganis Arena next weekend. Northeastern heads further down Commonwealth Avenue to take on Boston College that same night.