No. 5 New Hampshire hockey bows to Merrimack, 7-2

DURHAM, N.H. – Steve Crusco scored two goals and assisted on another to lead the Merrimack College ice hockey team to Saturday night’s 7-2 Hockey East victory against fifth-ranked University of New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center.

UNH, which had not lost at home to Merrimack since Nov. 17, 1995 and were unbeaten vs. the Warriors in the previous 29 games (26-0-3), is now 10-5-2 overall and 5-3-2 in Hockey East. Merrimack improved to 5-10-3 overall and 2-6-3 in league play.

Merrimack took a 1-0 lead with 27 seconds remaining in the first period when Brent Gough scored a shorthanded goal. Rob LaLonde passed the puck through the neutral zone to Gough, who broke in alone from the left point. Gough cut across the slot to force UNH goalie Mike Ayers (Hingham, Mass.) low, then pulled the puck back to his forehand and slid the puck into an open net.

The Warriors netted five second-period goals to build a 6-1 lead through two periods. Marco Rosa redirected a Blake Stewart centering pass into the net to give MC a 2-0 lead at 5:45. The Wildcats pulled within 2-1 when Brett Hemingway (Surrey, B.C.) jammed the puck in from the right doorstep at 7:47.

Merrimack scored a pair of quick goals with a Rob LaLonde power-play tally at 9:46 and Matt Byrnes’ goal 54 seconds later, which extended the visitor’s lead to 4-1. Bryan Schmidt netted a power-play goal at 16:29 and Crusco gave the Warriors a 6-1 advantage 23 seconds later.

Crusco struck again at 7:56 of the third period to build a 7-1 cushion. Hemingway potted his second goal of the night with 6:48 remaining to close the scoring.

MC goaltender Casey Guenther recorded 34 saves. Ayers stopped 15 shots and allowed six goals through two periods. Jeff Pietrasiak (Shrewsbury, Mass.) turned aside four of the five shots he faced in the third period.

Eric Pederson, Tim Reidy and Nick Pomponio each finished with two assists for the Warriors.

UNH returns to action Dec. 20 vs. Miami (Ohio) University at the University of Minnesota. The next Wildcat home game is Jan. 3 (7 p.m.) vs. Yale.


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