HANOVER, N.H. - The result will go into the books as a 6-6 tie between No. 7 Merrimack and St. Lawrence in the opening game of the Ledyard National Bank Classic at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena.
Yesterday’s matchup featured stunning swings in momentum between the Warriors and Saints, and because one team had to advance to tonight’s championship game against Dartmouth, a shootout decided the winner.
It took nine rounds to settle, with Chris Martin beating Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata through the five-hole to give St. Lawrence the victory. Merrimack will play Holy Cross in this afternoon’s consolation contest.
Jesse Todd, the Warriors’ first skater in the shootout, beat Matt Weninger, taking advantage of the netminder’s decision to come way out of the net.
The Saints’ third skater, Jeremy Wick, tied it on a terrific stutter-step move before roofing a shot on Cannata. The next 11 skaters came up empty before Martin ended it.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said his team practices shootout situations.
“Usually on Thursdays, it’s kind of our end of the week, kind of fun thing,’’ said Dennehy, whose team hit three posts during the shootout. “We do a reverse breakaway so you stay until you score. Then the guy who doesn’t score at the end has to wear a football helmet for the next shootout. We had a lot of football helmets there at the end [of yesterday’s game].’’
If you looked just at the first 22 minutes of the game, you’d have expected a runaway for the Warriors.
Merrimack (10-3-3) received goals from Brandon Brodhag and Jesse Todd in the opening period and Mike Collins added a third early in the second. The Warriors were beating the Saints to the puck all over the ice.
“Five on five, we were awesome,’’ said Dennehy.
But St. Lawrence (7-10-1) used a two-man advantage to get back into the game and rallied for five goals in the second.
After George Hughes pulled the Saints to within 3-1 at 3:20 on his first of two goals, Merrimack defenseman Kyle Bigos was whistled off for cross-checking at 9:18. Fellow blue liner Jordan Heywood was called for interference at 9:52, giving the Saints a five-on-three for 1 minute 27 seconds.
The Saints connected at 10:20, with Martin redirecting a Hughes pass from the left circle past Cannata.
The Saints’ second power-play goal came just 27 seconds later when Kyle Flanagan beat Cannata from the right circle to make it 3-3.
The next two tallies were at even strength. St. Lawrence took its first lead at 15:36 on Nelson Armstrong’s goal. At 18:14, Riley Austin beat Cannata.
The Saints’ two-goal lead evaporated midway through the third when Kyle Singleton made it 5-4 at 8:40, and Shawn Bates connected at 10:53.
But St. Lawrence’s power play (3 for 6 after entering the game with a 16.5 percent success rate) continued to produce. Merrimack’s Rhett Bly was called for hooking at 11:23, and just over a minute later, Hughes beat Cannata from the left circle to put the Saints ahead, 6-5.
“We’ve been struggling a bit,’’ said St. Lawrence associate coach Mike Hurlbut. “Those two guys coming back [Hughes and Flanagan, who combined for three goals and four assists] are a big part of the power play and I think we all saw why tonight.’’
With the teams skating four a side, Cannata was pulled for an extra attacker. Bates potted his second of the game on a rebound at 19:18 to force overtime.
“We were very resilient, we played really hard,’’ said Dennehy. “We have to get our special teams in order a little bit but we dominated five on five, I thought. And they play hard. That’s as well as we’ve played in a while, minus the penalty kill and the power play. We’ve got to get those cooking again and we will.’’