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Merrimack 3, BU 2

Merrimack holds off BU

Warriors protect their early lead

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / January 19, 2011

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NORTH ANDOVER — The Merrimack hockey team has enjoyed some firsts this season. It is ranked No. 13 in the country in the USCHO.com Division 1 men’s poll, the highest it’s ever been. It has won six games in a row away from home ice, which is a record for it in Division 1.

And by virtue of a 3-2 victory over Boston University in front of 2,063 last night at Lawler Arena, Merrimack has taken the season series from both BU and Boston College for the first time.

The win follows a pair of ties with the Terriers on Nov. 12 and 13. This is just the second time the Warriors have taken a season series from BU, the first time coming in 2000-01. But coach Mark Dennehy said it’s too soon to celebrate anything.

“Obviously, it’s important for us tonight to win a season series against a team we’re competing for home ice with,’’ said Dennehy. “We talked about this being the most important game of the year because it was our next game.

“They weren’t handing out any trophies tonight but we could help ourselves out by taking care of business and winning at home. It was very businesslike, it was very matter-of-fact, not much rah-rah.

“That’s the benefit of having a veteran club.’’

Merrimack struck first, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. With the teams skating four a side, junior defenseman Karl Stollery teed up a slapper from the left side of the blue line and junior right wing Jeff Velleca redirected it past junior netminder Kieran Millan (38 saves).

It was Velleca’s first goal since opening night at Niagara Oct. 9.

The Warriors outshot the Terriers, 16-6, in the opening period.

BU had a golden opportunity to pull even in the opening seconds of the second period when senior right wing Joe Pereira raced in on a breakaway. But Pereira’s shot was kicked out by junior goalie Joe Cannata (28 saves).

The next two goals belonged to the Warriors. They came less than three minutes apart, with left wing Ryan Flanigan flipping a shot over Millan from the right circle at 4:47 and junior right wing Jesse Todd making it a 3-0 lead at 7:26 when he redirected Brendan Ellis’s shot from the left point.

The Terriers had a late chance when junior defenseman David Warsofsky threw the puck on net from the left side of the goal line. The tricky bid nearly found daylight at the left post but Cannata kept it out with 55 seconds left.

Cannata lost his shutout at 3:25 of the third when freshman center Charlie Coyle scored on a backhand shot from the doorstep.

That triggered an enormous momentum shift in BU’s favor, and Pereira made it a one-goal game at 6:56, two seconds after a BU power play expired.

But the Warriors regained their equilibrium in part because of a rash of BU penalties, including a five-minute major and game misconduct assessed to defenseman Adam Clendening for slamming Joe Cucci into the boards with 6.9 seconds left.

Cucci was injured, though Dennehy did not say to what extent.

“We played pretty well in third period but it was a little too late,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker.

“I don’t think Merrimack played as well as they can play. I don’t think either one of us played up to our capabilities.

“In general, the first two periods were a bit of a blah game. It was a decent hockey game for us. It wasn’t the type of effort we need if we’re going to beat good teams.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.