ORONO — Klas Leidermark’s short-handed goal late in the game seemed to give the University of Maine men’s hockey team some life Friday. But the Black Bears couldn’t find a way to sustain the momentum in a 2-1 loss to Merrimack.

Maine had little difficulty creating potential scoring chances despite being outshot 27 to 23 in their season-opener at Alfond Arena.

But an ineffective power play, combined with Merrimack’s proficiency in blocking shots, stifled the Black Bears.

Ranked 15th and 16th in the national polls, Maine finished 0 for 9 with the man-advantage, including a stretch of 80 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey in the second period. The team couldn’t create many high-percentage chances deep in Merrimack’s zone.

“We have to work on getting those shots through,” said Leidermark, who beat Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata on a wrist shot from the right circle at 10:50 of the third. “We have to work on screening the goalie.”

Only a handful of Maine’s shots were high-percentage chances in front of Cannata (22 saves) and Merrimack blocked 19 shots, many coming from the perimeter.

“We blocked the shots, and (Coach Mark Dennehy) tells us that we have to be able to block shots if we want to penalty kill,” said Merrimack right wing Jesse Todd, who scored the go-ahead goal at 19:05 of the second. “The first thing we know is that we want to get in those shooting lanes, and then we’ve got to block that shot.”

Those efforts thwarted Maine’s power play, especially its 5-on-3 chance with less than eight minutes left in the second, as Jordan Heywood was penalized for holding at 11:22 and Kyle Bigos for hitting from behind 40 seconds later. The Black Bears put two shots on goal and the Warriors blocked three more in that stretch.

“Every time you have a 5-on-3, you want to score, especially with our power play,” Maine defenseman Will O’Neill said. “We know that we can make plays but when you don’t score on a 5-on-3, it’s tough. You want to score on those chances.”

While the Black Bears held the puck most of the game, they seemed to hesitate.

“We were waiting a little longer before we shot,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “We had one, two, three stick-handles and then a stick was in the lane, or Cannata took an extra step out. That was a factor in the game, just taking a couple extra seconds to shoot. The possessions we had, we should have generated more.”

Merrimack took a 1-0 lead on Jeff Velleca’s power-play goal at 4:32 of the second. The senior right wing re-directed Brendan Ellis’ shot from the left point between the pads of Maine goalie Martin Ouellette (25 saves).

Then, with less than two minutes left in the second, Todd stripped Brian Flynn of the puck at the right point and skated in with teammate Ryan Flanigan, beating Ouellette to give Merrimack a 2-0 lead.

After Leidermark’s goal, Maine had a flurry of chances in the final minute with an extra skater but couldn’t score.

“We worked hard,” Leidermark said. “I thought we played a pretty good game. But it’s a game of small details. Shot-blocks, faceoffs, power plays. It’s a game that any team could have won.”

 

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