Larsson the overtime hero as Merrimack downs New Hampshire to even Hockey East playoff series


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NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Merrimack and New Hampshire came together for the second game of their three-game, first round Hockey East series and the game did not disappoint.

After trailing the game 2-1, Merrimack fought back with a goal in the third and then the eventual overtime winner by Ludvig Larsson to win the game 3-2 and tie the best-of-three series at one game apiece.

Merrimack had the first of two power-play opportunities in overtime just 7:05. in but couldn’t cash in after a strong penalty kill from UNH.

However, four minutes later, Merrimack was granted another man advantage after a slash was called on UNH’s Maxim Gaudreault. Larsson took a pass from Chris LeBlanc and one timed it past Danny Tirone at the 12:02 mark to give Merrimack the win.

“I was so happy, and you don’t really realize what happened and then it hit me as I was in the bottom of the pile,” said Larsson. “I was just happy.”

“I thought it was another well played game,” added Warriors coach Mark Dennehy. “Our team feels good about the fact that we’ve tied this up. It’s about process. It’s really important for us to stick to our structure and stick to what we do and I was proud of the guys because we were down 2-1 late and we stuck to it.”

Merrimack opened the scoring when Derek Petti shot one from the slot past Tirone to put Merrimack up 1-0 just 4:35 in.

UNH countered with a pair of goals in the second half of the period to take the 2-1 lead.

First, Tyler Kelleher skated up the right-wing boards and fired a wrist shot that squeaked past the glove hand of Drew Vogler to tie the game at 1-1.

Then UNH found itself on the power play with just over five minutes to go in the period. Matias Cleland fired a puck from the blue line that beat Vogler glove side and put UNH up 2-1 heading into the second period.

After a scoreless second period, the third period saw Merrimack come back and take the momentum and tie the game and ultimately, send it to overtime. At 7:59 of the third period, Ben Bahe took a puck in the faceoff dot and put it past Tirone’s glove to tie the game at 2-2.

Merrimack controlled the pace of play into the latter stages of the third period to send it into overtime.

“Obviously disappointing,” Wildcats coach Dick Umile said. “I thought we battled back after the first period. I thought we were getting outplayed in the first, and gave up the lead in the third and then getting penalties in overtime is not gonna help you win hockey games.”