NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The long faces of Robby Dee and Gustav Nyquist said it all after a 5-4 loss at Merrimack on Friday night.

This isn’t where the University of Maine men’s hockey team wants to be.

The Black Bears are on shaky ground. They’re down 0-1 in their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series, and they’re a step closer to the offseason despite a late and persistent effort to create chances for the equalizing goal.

The Black Bears didn’t convert on those chances. Now they need to win tonight to keep the series — and their season — alive.

“If we want to win,” said Dee, who scored two goals, “we’re just going to have to play perfect hockey.”

The No. 14 Black Bears, the fifth seed in Hockey East, lost a 2-0 lead midway through the second period when Merrimack scored twice 65 seconds apart. They cut the Warriors’ lead to 5-4 with less than five minutes left in the game on Spencer Abbott’s shot from the point but couldn’t cap the rally.

“I’m not certain what we did to keep them in check,” Merrimack left wing Chris Barton said. “But we had to limit some of their scoring opportunities and stay out of the box.”

Elliott Sheen’s short-handed goal with 5:26 left was the game-winner, helping the Warriors (23-8-4) snap Maine’s seven-game unbeaten streak.

“I thought Merrimack did a great job of bouncing back any time we scored,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said.

“That short-handed goal was big and it showed a lot of poise, coming down there and making a big shot, and they got to the net. They got to the net and got some of those ugly goals that you really need to get.”

Four of Merrimack’s five goals came on high-percentage shots in front of the net — only Ryan Flanigan’s goal came from a distance, a shot from the left circle that bounced off Maine goalie Dan Sullivan (19 saves) and caromed into the goal.

“We’ve got to play a little bit better and help Sully out in the defensive zone,” Dee said. “We gave them way too many chances, especially in front of the net, and we didn’t play good enough (defense).”

The Black Bears failed to convert a pair of key chances inside the 13-minute mark of the first period — with 6:57 left when Adam Shemansky took a pass from the corner off a turnover and hit Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata (20 saves) in the chest, and less than a minute later, when Nyquist got behind the Warriors’ defense and picked up a pass off the boards from Brian Flynn.

Nyquist shot wide on a one-on-one attempt.

But with 3:35 left, Maine went on a five-minute power play when Merrimack defenseman Kyle Bigos drove Shemansky into the boards near Maine’s blue line.

Bigos took a five-minute major for cross-checking and with 40.3 seconds left in the period, Nyquist took a feed from Tanner House in the slot and beat Cannata from the right.

Maine and Merrimack combined for five goals in the third, as Sheen and Dee traded goals at 2:14 and 3:52 before Flanigan gave Merrimack a 4-3 lead at 12:28 and Sheen’s short-handed goal on a breakaway secured the win for the Warriors.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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