It was the Hockey East quarterfinals yesterday. Two teams separated by 30 minutes faced off for an opportunity to head to the TD Garden and a spot in next weekend’s Semifinals. This is the fifth time that the two programs have met in the postseason. Both teams have won twice, and during the regular season, Merrimack (19-15-1) took both games against UMass Lowell. It’s always difficult to beat a team three times in a given year and that’s what the Warriors were facing.
In the early stages of the first period, it was all River Hawks (21-9-3). They imposed their will and got the game’s first goal 1:04 in. Conner Sodergren off of a goalmouth scramble gave UMass Lowell a 1-0 lead. The goal was his sixth of the season. A short time later, the Warriors went on a power play and got a couple of good scoring chances. Point blank shots from Ben Brar and Declan Carlile were stopped by River Hawk netminder Owen Savory. At 7:55 the River Hawks made it 2-0. Carl Berglund, from the right-wing side, beat Warriors goalie Hugh Ollas with a wrist shot. The goal was set up by Andre Lee and Isac Jonsson who did good work chipping the puck deep into the Merrimack zone and controlling it to set up Berglund.
Down 2-0, Merrimack almost got one back. Off a River Hawk turnover in their zone, Brar set up Mac Welsher who went in all alone on Savory from the left wing. His backhander rang off the pipe far side. After that close call, UMass Lowell went back to how they started the period by putting pressure on the Merrimack defense. It would result in a 2-on-1 that was stopped by Ollas with just over two minutes left in the first. Merrimack got one back when Logan Drevitch scored his fifth of the season beating Savory on his short side down the right wing. The goal was his fifth of the year assisted by Mick Messner and Christian Felton . It was a goal the Warriors needed as the first twenty minutes came to a close.
It looked like Lowell had regained a two goal lead at the 3:43 mark but Berglund’s goal was wiped out by a River Hawk in the goal crease. Lowell did get their first power-play of the night when Max Newton was sent off for holding four minutes in, and the River Hawks took advantage. Off a face-off in the Warriors zone, Ben Meehan walked in from his right point position and rifled one by Ollas to give Lowell the two goal lead at 3-1. The goal was scored at the 5:33 mark of the second period and was assisted by Matt Crasa and Jon McDonald. The River Hawks kept the pressure on after scoring that third goal, and would add to their lead. A point shot by Jonsson was deflected to the right wing side and was picked by Berglund who put it home for his second of the game and his eight of the year. Jonasson and Lee grabbed assists at 8:44.
Merrimack’s head coach, Scott Borek, called time out to try and settle his team down and get them back into the game. UMass Lowell made it 5-1 and forced Merrimack to make a goalie change. Ryan Brushett scored his eighth of the season by a tipped point shot from Jonasson past Ollas at 14:22. Brehdan Engum picked up the secondary assist. For Jonsson, the assist was his third point of the game. Ollas was out and Zachary Borgiel was in net for the Warriors. Merrimack’s best chance of the second twenty minutes came from Carlile who’s shot from the left slot was stopped by Savory. The second period came to and end with Lowell up 5-1.
In the third it was all about Lowell protecting a four goal lead. Merrimack got a man-advantage on a McDonald slashing penalty. The Warriors pulled their goalie to make it a 6-on-4 advantage. It worked, as they would score a power play goal. Alex Jefferies recorded his tenth of the year from Filip Forsmark and Steven Jandric to give some life to the Warriors bench. It was short-lived as Owen Cole scored at 10:27 to make it 6-2. Zach Kaiser and Ryan Brushett got helpers. Merrimack would play the remainder of the game with an empty net in hopes of getting back into the game. Lowell added an empty net goal with under two minutes left by Lucas Condotta, his ninth, assisted by Matt Crasa. Lowell is now on their way to the Garden after a 7-2 win.
Merrimack coach Scott Borek was disappointed in his team performance. He said, “Lowell played a simple and good game.” He also thought Lowell played “harder on the puck today.” He believes the program now has higher expectations moving forward. River Hawks coach Norm Bazin was “pleased with his team effort.” He also pointed out that some of his players were “playing playoff hockey for the first time.” He was really happy with the buzz in the building off of a crowd of 5,782. He does not care who is next, he’s just happy his team will get a chance to play for the Hockey East championship starting Friday night.
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