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Hot goaltender Collin Delia delivered the Merrimack Warriors deep into the final period Friday night, the game with Massachusetts-Lowell tied at one goal apiece, but suddenly he was limping off, dragging a leg, and in retrospect, taking his team’s chances for a win with him.

Lowell immediately jumped on his replacement, Drew Vogel, and scored three times before the final buzzer and came out with a 4-1 victory. The score hardly reflects the very even matchup between these two rival teams, about 15 miles apart via Rte. 495.

Lowell controlled the play for much of the first period and took advantage of a few mistakes Merrimack made clearing their defensive zone, but they couldn’t get the puck past Delia, who was making just his third start of the season. A previous injury, reported to be “lower body,” had kept him sidelined until recently.

After a scoreless first period, the highlight perhaps being Delia stuffing Lowell’s Evan Campbell on a breakaway, Merrimack came out with a little more intensity to start the second and suddenly a Jared Kolquist slap shot from the point got by everybody and Merrimack was ahead 1-0 at 1:06.

Ten minutes later, Lowell’s Dylan Zink found himself all alone in the high slot and he blasted it by Delia to tie the game.

Lowell started the third period killing penalties for four of the first six minutes. This is what gave the River Hawks momentum for the remainder of the game, according to Lowell coach Norm Bazin.

“This had been an evenly played game so far,” he said, “but killing those penalties gave us the momentum we needed from there.”

With Delia limping to the bench, obviously in pain and needing assistance, Ryan Dmowski succeeded finishing a two-on-one and C.J. Smith scored after cutting across the slot. Both were good goals and Vogel can’t be obviously faulted, but with just over five minutes remaining, Lowell held a 3-1 lead and for all intents the game was over.

Lowell did get another penalty, “and we have to learn to say out of the box” Bazin said. Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy pulled his goalie with the man advantage and 3:59 left in the game, but Zink, the penalized player, came on the ice after his penalty expired and scored the empty-netter.

“This was a game between two sound defensive teams and the first one to blink takes a bullet to the head,” Dennehy said. “Down to a team like Lowell with seven minutes to play is not where you want to be.

“We came in here expecting to win, but they are as good a defensive transition team as there is in the country. They get behind you and that’s how they get numbers.”

Dennehy declined to speculate on the extent of Delia’s injury and had no information about an injury to his leading scorer, Brett Seney.

For Lowell, Joe Gambardella had a point on his team’s third goal and for the Staten Island (N.Y.) senior, it was his 100th career point.

“Joe is one of those kids who always finds a way,” Bazin said. “He is more than just his points. Points are only parts of the equation and just part of the value he brings to this team.”

Hockey East roundup

American International at Maine
Chase Pearson had three power-play goals and Maine beat AIC 5-3 Friday night in Orono, Maine. Cam Brown and Blaine Byron had assists on each of the scores.

Providence at RIT
Providence took a three-goal lead into the third period, scored two more late, and rolled over Atlantic Hockey hotshot RIT 5-1 in Henrietta, N.Y. Ryan Tait scored twice for the Friars and Brian Pinho had a goal and two assists.

Massachusetts at Connecticut
Tage Thompson scored twice, including the empty-netter, as UConn beat UMass in Hartford. Steven Iacobellis scored at 17:08 of the third for the Minutemen to make the finish interesting.

Boston University at Vermont
Vermont, ranked 12th, scored twice in the first and third periods to down No. 5 BU 4-2 in Burlington, Vermont. Anthony Petruzelli, Matt O’Donnell, Tom Forgione, and Ross Colton scored for the Catamounts. Bobo Carpenter and Patrick Harper scored for BU.