Senior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg had 26 saves against Merrimack on Saturday night. (Matt Dwyer/Connector)
NORTH ANDOVER — The first fifty-nine minutes of the UMass Lowell-Merrimack game was back-and-forth, almost tedious hockey.
The last minute of regulation was chaos. And overtime was pandemonium.
The 14th-ranked UMass Lowell men’s hockey team skated to a 3-3 overtime finish against the Merrimack Warriors on Saturday Feb. 23 at Merrimack College’s Lawler Arena.
Saturday night’s result brings UMass Lowell’s record to 18-10-3 overall and Merrimack’s record to 7-22-3.
“We couldn’t seal the win and that’s unfortunate, but I liked our effort tonight. I thought we came back from the first period, had a dynamite second period and the third period had a little bit of everything,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin.
It was an evenly-matched game between the two foes; neither team overshadowed the other, and they engaged in what seemed to be a call-and-response. Both teams seemed to have the right answer for each other, leading to a constant cycle of making and breaking plays that left fans guessing where the puck would end up.
A goal from sophomore forward Charlie Levesque broke the deadlock between the two teams in the third period when he scored with 7:23 left in the third period to wrap up the game.
The remainder of regulation was intense, with both teams skating hard to gain an edge on the other. UMass Lowell senior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg stood tall in net, serving up clutch saves that kept the River Hawks just ahead of the Warriors.
Then Merrimack scored with 47 seconds left in regulation. Then UMass Lowell took on a too-many-men penalty with 2:16 left in overtime. Then junior forward Kenny Hausinger was slashed on a breakaway attempt with 29 seconds remaining.
Play went on to the last second, the final result not a sure thing until the final buzzer.
“It was an exciting hockey game for the fans. A little too much drama for coaches,” said Bazin.
UMass Lowell pulled away with shots on goal by the third period, ending the game with 34 shots to Merrimack’s 29.
The two goaltenders performed well for their respective teams. Hernberg walked away with 26 saves and his Merrimack counterpart Craig Pantano had 31 saves.
Saturday night was emblematic of the night’s previous game, a hard-fought battle which eventually went the River Hawks’ way with a 6-3 win.
Bazin credits Merrimack’s home-ice advantage and their hard play for Saturday night’s tie.
“They played hard. I liked their penalty kill, it was 100% and I thought we could have had a few more go our way but they didn’t,” said Bazin.
The first and second periods were a back and forth affair, with play split fairly evenly between the two teams. Aside from a few good scoring chances, the game was mostly skating for much of the opening forty minutes.
Long stretches went on between goals, with the first of the match coming from Merrimack’s Alex Carle at 3:38 of the first period. It took UMass Lowell until the second period to give Merrimack a real game, when junior forward Kenny Hausinger struck on a shorthanded opportunity that came out of a slashing period on Dmowski in the last seconds of the first period.
The second period would end with two more goals scored. Freshman forward Chase Blackmun gave the River Hawks their first lead of the night with an even-strength goal coming in at 14:28. Not to be dismissed, the Warriors lit the lamp at 16:24 to bring the game to a tie once more.
It was never resolved. And the lack of a penalty shot awarded to Hausinger after he was slashed during overtime seemed to bother Bazin a tad.
“You try to stay calm,” said Bazin. “We’ve awarded penalty shots all year long for a lot less than that.”
Trailing off, he eventually came to his typically Bazin-esque conclusion: “That’s the game of hockey.”
UMass Lowell will play a home-and-home against the University of New Hampshire next week. They begin their weekend in Durham on Friday night and then head back to Lowell for a Saturday night matchup at 7 p.m.