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After securing a 4-1 victory over Vermont last night, Merrimack was looking for an opportunity to secure home ice for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. Ludvig Larsson’s third-period marker proved to be the game-winner and gave Merrimack home ice for the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
“We did what we had to do to get two points; we didn’t play our best hockey, but I thought our compete level increased each period,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “It came down to a play, and one of our guys made a play.”
The first period started out with a bit of a feeling out process and then got going as the frame went on. Each goaltender made his presence felt in the period with Merrimack’s Drew Vogler coming up big with five saves and Vermont’s Mike Santaguida making 10 saves himself.
At the 17:09 mark of the first, Jace Hennig made head contact in his defensive zone and received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The major then turned into a four-on-three opportunity for Merrimack, as Vermont took two quick penalties. Merrimack was not able to take advantage, however.
The middle frame was much like the first, with both teams playing very defensive hockey. Each team had a power-play opportunity, but weren’t able to cash in on them. Things got interesting in the later half of the period when Vermont kept an offensive zone pressure that saw a near goal. Vogler sprawled right to left in his crease to keep a puck from entering the goal with 27 seconds remaining in the period.
The third period saw Merrimack open up the scoring and secure the victory. At 4:06, freshman Ludvig Larsson came up the near sidewall and worked his way past a defender and roof one over the shoulder of Santaguida to put Merrimack up 1-0.
The period ended in a frenzy when Vermont pulled Santaguida for the extra attacker and made things crazy for Vogler in the net. Ben Bahe was able to fish out a puck and bury an empty-net goal to ice the game and give Merrimack the 2-0 win and home ice in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs.
Drew Vogler recorded his first career shutout and helped keep his team in it throughout the game.
“I have to give him a lot of credit; in the 20 years I’ve been coaching, I’ve never seen a goalie progress as much as he has in four months,” said Dennehy.