BOSTON – Junior forward Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) registered the lone goal of the evening, but it wasn't enough, as the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team fell to seventh-ranked and fourth-seeded Merrimack College, 4-1, Friday night in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden.
With the win Merrimack improves to 25-8-4 (16-8-3 HE) and advances to the Hockey East Championship game, while the Wildcats dip to 21-10-6 (17-6-4 HE). Top-seeded Boston College advanced to the Hockey East finals by winning the day's first semifinal, 5-4, over sixth-seeded Northeastern. The finals are set for 7 p.m. at TD Garden with television coverage on NESNplus.
New Hampshire nearly found the back of the net just 35 seconds into the action, as Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) dumped the puck into the offensive zone and it deflected in off a Merrimack stick and took a bad bounce past MC goalie Joe Cannata, but UNH was offside after a video review.
UNH cracked the scoreboard first when Moses scored off a give-and-go pass sequence with Mike Borisenok (Watervliet, N.Y.), potting the puck from the center slot at 7:23 of the period. Borisenok and Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.) were both credited with helpers on the tally.
Moments later, the Warriors punched in the equalizer on a short-handed breakaway goal by Ryan Flanigan at 10:47 of the first with an assist from Stephane Da Costa, evening the score at 1-1. However, the score wouldn't stay tied for long, as Merrimack took its first lead of the night when Brendan Ellis fired a one-timer from the left point that deflected into the net off a UNH stick and then off of Merrimack's Elliott Sheen into the net at 16:15 to make it 2-1. Ellis and Karl Stollery were both credited with assists on the goal. New Hampshire held a 13-11 edge in shots during the frame.
In a scoreless second period, both teams had chances with Merrimack holding a 12-11 shot edge in stanza. UNH's best chances came in power play, while the Warriors also generated some of its best chances on the man-advantage.
The Warriors materialized those chances late in the third frame when Mike Collins chipped in a puck on the doorstep of the net on the right side with just over five minutes remaining. Jesse Todd and Ellis were both credited with assists on the score. Merrimack would add to its lead and seal the victory in the final seconds of the stanza, when Sheen scored a short-handed and empty net goal with just 7.7 seconds on the clock.
Di Girolamo (21-10-6) stopped a game-high 31 saves in the contest, including 12 in the second frame. Cannata (25-8-4) meanwhile stopped 30 shots on his own in the win.
Merrimack held a 35-31 shot edge thanks in part to a 12-7 advantage in the third.
New Hampshire finished 0-4 on the power play, while Merrimack was 0-1.
UNH will wait to see if its finish was good enough for an at-large bid in the upcoming 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey tournament. The selection show will air live on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. If UNH advances, it will play in the Northeast Regional at Verizon Wireless Arena on Sat.-Sun. March 26-27. Log on to UNHWildcats.com for more information including tickets.