BOSTON – Northeastern used three first-period goals to fend off No. 19 Merrimack 4-2 in the Huskies’ season-opener at Matthews Arena Wednesday.
Newcomer Kevin Roy netted the game-winner back in the first period and tacked on an assist. Senior captain Vinny Saponari joined Roy as a multi-point achiever, posting a pair of assists, including the primary pass on Roy’s power play winner.
Centerman Garrett Vermeersch, sophomore Joseph Manno and fourth-year assistant captain Robbie Vrolyk scored Northeastern’s other three goals. Vermeersch’s tally came 53 seconds into the contest, while Vrolyk’s sealed the game with a short-handed empty netter. Manno’s goal was sandwiched in between Vermeersch’s and Roy’s in the first frame.
Senior goaltender Chris Rawlings earned his first victory of the season, 40th of his career, via 32 saves on 34 Warrior shots. MC backstopper Rasmus Tirronen stopped 30-of-33 shots.
Fifty-three seconds after the opening faceoff, Northeastern shot a redirect goal by Vermeersch. Northeastern won the draw and the puck went into the corner behind Tirronen. Sophomore Ludwig Karlsson and Vinny Saponari won a battle against an MC defensemen and Saponari wrestled the puck out where Saucerman was waiting. Saucerman had a lane and fired his first collegiate shot, but Vermeersch was in perfect position for the redirect tip-in goal just eight feet from the goalmouth to give NU the early 1-0 lead.
Merrimack killed off a Quinn Gould hooking call at 2:20, but moments later a broken play in the neutral zone yielded a 2-0 Huskies’ advantage.
Belonger won a scrum along the boards and pushed the disc up to Roy waiting at the blue line. Manno was flanking through the middle and Roy doled out a perfect dish at the top of the circle. Manno raced past his defenseman and beat Tirronen with a backhand at 4:57 for the 2-0 buffer.
The Huskies continued to dominate the time of possession and forced Justin Hussar into a tripping call at 8:04 of the first stanza. Twenty-nine ticks later, Northeastern netted its first power play goal of the season on a textbook one-timer.
Sophomore Adam Reid and Saponari pinched their forward along the boards and managed to gain possession of the puck between the blue line and the top of the circle. Saponari got free and linked up with a wide-open Roy on the near post. Roy smoked the one-time shot right over Tirronen’s outstretched glove for a 3-0 cushion at 8:33 of the first period.
The second period started off with a melee, each team parading to the box one after another. Mike Collins went off for slashing at 1:08 followed by Saucerman’s trip 28 seconds later to create a 4-on-4 at 1:36. Dan Kolomatis was whistled for a hook nine seconds later and Karlsson nearly capitalized on the 4-on-3 with a ringer off the crossbar. On the next play, he was cited for interference at 2:11 to cap the penalty-plagued window.
Immediately after Karlsson was released, Merrimack ended its scoring draught at 4:20 of the second frame. Hussar and John Heffernan crafted a give-and-go in between the circle and tossed the puck on Rawlings. Gould crashed the net and managed to swat the puck underneath Rawlings’ pad to make it 3-1.
Forward Cam Darcy took his second penalty of the second stanza (holding) at 14:10 and the Warriors cashed in to make it a one-goal game at 15:08. The Huskies nearly converted a short-handed goal but Merrimack turned it back up the other side and Justin Mansfield’s snap shot beat Rawlings’ near side.
Conor Toomey emerged from a battle behind the net and dished it out to Mansfield on the near post. Mansfield wheeled it around the other side and snuck the puck through Rawlings unattested to narrow NU’s lead, 3-2.
The Warriors earned another power play opportunity in the closing minutes of the second when Vermeersch was called for slashing at 17:01, but the Huskies killed their sixth chance of the evening heading into the third frame.
In the third period, Merrimack’s Justin Mansfield fired towards Rawlings, but he made a save less than a minute into the final period. The Warriors continued to pepper Rawlings with shots from deep in the zone.
Rhett Bly earned a spot in the penalty box for interference at 10:34, setting off another Husky power play. Warriors canceled five NU shots to escape unscathed and still down 3-2.
Following some back-and-forth action, Ferriero had a chance at a score at the 17:08 mark, but was whistled for charging, sending him to the box for two minutes.
Sophomore Dax Lauwers kicked the puck out to Vrolyk and he sent in an empty-net goal from just outside the redline to give the Huskies the 4-2 cushion they were looking for. The Warriors got off four shots, but to no avail as the Huskies escaped with the 4-2 season-opening win.