NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. —The gutsy Maine hockey team left Lawler Rink with four hard-earned points Saturday, polishing off a sweep of Merrimack with a 5-3 victory.

The Black Bears showed they could play with a lead Friday, scoring the first three goals and hanging on for a 4-3 win. On Saturday, they came from behind with a blistering second-period performance that erased a two-goal deficit.

It added up to four key points in the Hockey East standings and leaves Maine tied for eighth in the conference with Connecticut. The top eight teams will earn the right to host playoff series when the season ends in two weeks.

“If we’re going to make a run at securing one of the home-ice playoff spots, we needed to have this kind of a weekend. And our kids played their tails off both days and we got four points,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “They were magnificent.”

After a bland and scoreless first period, the second was filled with twists and turns.

Merrimack (14-13-3, 5-11-2 Hockey East) scored two goals in the first 62 seconds, the first when Hampus Gustafsson skated in on Maine goaltender Matt Morris from the left circle and sent a wrist shot past him 16 seconds in. Then Jace Hennig had a close-range shot stopped by Morris, but had a long time to gather the rebound and find a way to muscle it past him for a 2-0 lead.


Maine’s Steven Swavely answered at 1:30 of the period with a fluky goal.

“Swaves was just around the net and the puck bounces off his back and goes in,” Gendron said. “So, yeah, it was a little lucky. But then again he was where he was supposed to be.”

The Black Bears (12-17-3, 7-9-2) tied the score 2-2 on a Cedric Lacroix power-play goal at 9:50. He brought the puck off the end boards and punched it past Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen on his glove side.

Connor Riley initiated Maine’s next goal when he won a battle for the puck in front of his own bench and slid it to Brian Morgan entering the Warriors’ zone. Morgan skated into the right circle and brought the puck to his backhand, flipping it past Tirronen for a 3-2 lead at 13:07.

Maine concluded its four-goal flurry with beautiful teamwork. Devin Shore carried the puck past the blue line and dropped it for Ben Hutton, whose quick diagonal pass was right on Nolan Vesey’s stick for a tap-in at 17:35.

“It just says a lot about our character. Coach is always harping, ‘next shift, next shift’ after we let up a goal and that’s exactly what we did. The next thing you know we’re up 4-2 going into the third,” Vesey said.


“I just went to the net and it was a hell of a pass by Hutton. I just had to lift it. It gave us a little cushion and gave us a little wiggle room there to do our thing in the third.”

Merrimack quickly cut that lead to 4-3 on a power-play goal by Gustafsson 2:18 into the third period.

But Blaine Byron finished off Merrimack with an empty-net goal with 8.2 seconds remaining.

The Black Bears’ nine goals in the series came from nine different players.

“We’re really coming together,” Vesey said. “Every line is doing their job. And the results are showing.”

Maine hosts Northeastern next weekend before finishing the regular season at Providence in two weeks.

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