North Andover, MA –The experience of the Merrimack College Warriors wasn’t enough to overtake the youthfulness of the Dartmouth College Big Green as the two schools skated to a 2-2 tie after sixty-five minutes of play in front of 1,022 at Merrimack’s Lawler Rink on Friday night. Each team held the lead briefly, once in the first for Merrimack and once in the third for Dartmouth.
The contrast between the Big Green and the Warriors is as apparent as the two schools’ colors, green and white for Dartmouth and blue and gold for the Warriors. The Big Green are young, with a first-time Head Coach in Reid Cashman. Merrimack is a junior-year heavy squad with a fair share of seniors and graduate transfer students. It’s also fourth-year coach Scott Borek‘s second stint as a head coach in D-1 hockey. How each team scored was as opposite as well. The visitors scored twice from the top of the circle, while Merrimack scored both goals in the crease.
Both teams had going for them was solid goaltending, as this was a battle between sophomores Clay Stevenson and Zachary Borgiel. Stevenson turned back 36 of 38 Merrimack shots on goal while his counterpart Borgiel stopped 20 of 22 shots. Like all Big Green players, Stevenson didn’t play last year due to COVID and was only starting for the sixth time. Borgiel started thirteen games as a freshman last year and was starting his eleventh game this season.
The Warriors put early pressure on the Big Green, but Stevenson turned aside two Merrimack attempts at the side of his goal during the first few minutes of action.
Mac Welsher put an Alex Jeffries pass past Stevenson at 4:25 to give the Warriors the 1-0 lead. Welsher beat Stevenson high on Jeffries dish from behind the net for his third goal of the year.
Freshman defenseman Ian Pierce tied the game for the visiting big Green with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat Borgiel at 6:27. The unassisted goal was Pierce’s first NCAA goal.
The Warriors had the first power-play of the game at 10:17. Dartmouth’s Joey Musa was penalized for Hooking. Merrimack threatened but was unable to capitalize.
Merrimack defenseman Adam Arvedson impeded Sam Hesler‘s breakaway bid at 18:25. Borgiel turned away Hesler’s shot before the play ended, and Arvedson went to the penalty box for Hooking. Dartmouth only mustered one shot on goal during the ensuing power-play.
The second period was all about goaltending. Borgiel and Stevenson traded big saves throughout the middle frame.
First, a bad clearing attempt by Borgiel led to a shot from the blue line by Dartmouth that Borgiel had to scramble back to goal to make the stop.
Then a loose puck bid by Merrimack’s Jordan Seyfort was turned away by Stevenson.
Borgiel’s best one was on a rebound attempt by Hesler that trickled through his legs. The 6′-2″ Michigan native gloved the puck off the goal-line for the save.
Stevenson’s best sequence came in the final seconds of the period as he made three consecutive stops while sprawling out at the top of his crease. Two on Liam Walsh while stickless, the second of which came while sitting on the ice. Then a buzzer-beating save on a wrist shot from the blue line by Ivan Zivlik.
The Big Green couldn’t take advantage of a Five-Minute major on Merrimack forward Walsh at 2:09 of the third period. Dartmouth struggled to generate a steady attack with the five-on-four. A Mark Gallant Slashing penalty negated the power-play on Dartmouth at 6:01.
Pierce gave the Big Green the 2-1 lead at 15:18 when he once again fired off a shot from the top of the left circle that beat Borgiel. Harrison Markell and Hesler assisted Pierce’s second of the night.
The Dartmouth lead was short-lived as Merrimack answered at 16:26 on Mick Messner‘s first goal. The senior transfer student was alone at the top of the Dartmouth crease and had his initial shot saved by Stevenson, but his second effort knocked the puck over the Dartmouth goalie to even the score 2-2. Zach Vinnell and Mike Brown assisted on the game-tying strike.
The overtime frame had each team garner a solid scoring chance only to be shut down by the goalies. The better of the two was blocker save by Stevenson on a Jeffries breakaway with just over thirty seconds remaining.
“I thought Clay Stevenson made some big-time saves to keep us in that game,” said Cashman. “He’s had a tough first half of the year with some injuries, and he didn’t play any hockey last year. He’s just scratching the surface. I think those two breakaways at the end of the second, and then what separates Clay is he makes the first save, but then he makes the second and third. He battles, he competes.”
“When you play a well-coached, experienced team, you don’t get an opportunity to take a breath,” said the second-year bench boss. “We’re learning how to compete, and now the next step for our program is learning how to win.”
“It was a hard-fought game. We had a lot of chances we didn’t finish,” said Borek. “I was happy with our effort. I was happy with our bounce back. I don’t know how many shots they had in the third period, but there weren’t many. When you give up a goal like that, it can be a back-breaker, and I thought our team bounced back really well.”
Dartmouth is off until December 30, when they host the University of New Hampshire during the Ledyard Classic in Hanover, NH. Merrimack (6-9-2 overall) is off until January 1, 2022, when they face Yale University in New Haven, CT.