After dropping a 3-2 decision on Friday night to Wisconsin, Merrimack entered Saturday night’s rematch at the Kohl Center still searching for its first win away home.
Thanks to a couple of surprising heroes, including goaltender Collin Delia, the Warriors earned a well-deserved 2-0 road decision.
“Against such an established program like Wisconsin, to get two points in their barn tonight was pretty special,” said Delia, who earned his first victory of the season. “Everyone bought in to the game plan and we really responded well tonight.”
Despite the fact that Delia played just seven minutes and 14 seconds so far this season, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy chose Delia over usual starter Drew Vogler. The move paid off in spades as the junior stopped all 33 shots he faced.
“We thought goaltending was going to be depth position for us this year,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “I think the way (Vogs) has played, and how Deals played tonight, I think that’s going to prove true.”
On Saturday, Merrimack was also without the services of leading goal scorer Hampus Gustafsson, but found a pair of unlikely contributors in Sami Tavernier and Mathieu Tibbet. Each had only one goal coming into the night.
“Brett Seney and Tavernier seem to have a connection and that showed last night as well,” Dennehy said. “But if you are going to beat good teams you need third and fourth line guys to score, so for Tibbet to get a goal that was big for him.”
Seney was a difference maker again for Merrimack, picking up an assist on his team’s first goal after tallying twice in the series opener. On the Warriors’ opening salvo, the junior forward’s shot deflected to Tavernier, who buried the loose puck behind Badgers goaltender Matt Jurusik.
“I thought it was a really good weekend for Brett,” Dennehy said. “Not just because he scored, but because of his overall play. A player of his caliber is going to get his chances, but he did a really good job of being patient.”
After Jurusik left the game with an injury late in the period, Merrimack made it 2-0 six minutes into the second period on a similar play. This time it was Mathieu Foget with the initial shot, which caromed to Mathieu Tibbet, who had a gaping net behind new Wisconsin goaltender Jack Berry.
For Wisconsin, Delia was an unsolvable riddle, as the Badgers missed out on several quality chances, especially in a third period.
“Merrimack was desperate (tonight), and their goaltender gave them a ton of confidence,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “We had four or five point-blank opportunities that (Delia) made great saves on.”
The Warriors return home to North Andover, Massachusetts, and Hockey East play next week, hoping to get another monkey off their back against Providence.
“We are still looking for our first league win,” Delia said. “We are chomping at the bit to get back into Hockey East play.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin will spend the weekend after Thanksgiving in Colorado, facing off against a pair of former WCHA foes in Colorado College and Denver.
Big Ten roundup
No. 10 Penn State 8, Arizona State 0
Penn State completed a home sweep of Arizona State with an 8-0 shutout at Pegula Ice Arena. Eight different Nittany Lions scored in the win, while Trevor Hamilton had a three-assist effort. Penn State goaltender Chris Funkey made 18 saves to record his first shutout of the season.
No. 14 Ohio State 3, at Rensselaer 2
Tanner Laczynski’s game-winning goal with just over 10 minutes remaining gave Ohio State a 3-2 victory over visiting Rensselaer, completing a road sweep of the Engineers at the Houston Field House. Sam McCormick and Luke Stork also scored for the hosts, while Mat Tomkins made 22 saves to pick up the win. RPI’s Chase Perry made 37 saves in a losing cause.
No. 7 Minnesota 1, No. 15 Minnesota State 0
Minnesota senior forward Justin Kloos’ lone goal two minutes and 46 seconds into the second period proved the difference as the Golden Gophers earned a home-and-home split with a 1-0 victory over Minnesota State Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. Jason Pawloski made 37 saves in the loss for the Mavericks, while Eric Schierhorn made 23 saves to record his fifth win of the season and his third shutout.