DURHAM, N.H. -- John Heffernan scored 19 seconds into overtime to lift the sixth-ranked Merrimack College men's hockey team to Saturday night's 3-2 victory against the University of New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which prevailed 2-1 at Merrimack on Friday, is now 9-12-2 overall and 6-9-1 in Hockey East. Merrimack improved to 13-5-5, 9-4-3.
UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) made 23 saves and Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.) had a multiple-point game with two assists. Warriors' goalie Joe Cannata stopped 28 shots.
The Wildcats controlled the opening faceoff of overtime and advanced the puck into the offensive zone. Karl Stollery controlled the loose puck and the Warriors quickly moved the puck through the neutral zone with passes from Stollery to Shawn Bates to John Heffernan. Heffernan skated in on the left side and his shot deflected off a UNH defenseman past DeSmith into the net to end the game 19 seconds into the extra session.
Both teams netted a first-period goal as the teams skated to a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes. The Warriors, who lost Carter Madsen to injury in the opening minute of the game, took a 1-0 lead at 3:06 when Rhett Bly wristed a shot from the slot past DeSmith. Josh Myers, who won the battle for possession on the right half-boards, and Connor Toomey, whose centering pass from the end boards found Bly, set up the tally.
The Wildcats tied the score at 17:39. Sorkin slid a pass from the left circle to the high slot, where Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, British Columbia) blasted a slap shot through traffic past Cannata. Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) was also credited with an assist.
UNH carried play early in the second period. In the third minute, Casey Thrush (Easton, Md.) maneuvered off the end boards past the left post to the top of the crease, where he lifted a shot over the crossbar. On minute later in a Wildcat rush, Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) snapped a wrister that Cannata blocked aside.
New Hampshire had apparently taken a 2-1 lead with 67 seconds left in the second stanza when Moses' initial shot was stopped by Cannata, the rebound ricocheted off Goumas' stick and the Merrimack netminder inadvertently pushed the puck across the goal line as he slid back towards the cage. But there was a delayed penalty on the 'Cats that negated the shot off the rebound.
The Warriors went on the power play and capitalized on the skater advantage to take a 2-1 lead at 19:15 when Jordan Heywood's shot from the high slot was redirected in the slot by Kyle Singleton under the crossbar. Mike Collins also set up the power-play tally.
UNH trailed by that one-goal margin in the opening minutes of the third period and almost tied the score as John Henrion (Holden, Mass.) collected a drop pass at the top of the right circle and blasted a shot that beat Cannata but caromed off the left post.
The Wildcats did level the score, 2-2, with a power-play goal at 8:56. Sorkin, deep on the right side, snapped a pass across the top of the crease to Connor Hardowa (Edmonton, Alberta), who had advanced from the point to the left post and tapped the puck into the open left side of the net. Goumas was also credited with an assist.
With 7:30 remaining, Goumas led a quick counterattack down the left wing and he advanced the puck to Moses, but Cannata made a stick save on the attempted shot between his leg pads. Two minutes later at the other end of the ice, Jeff Velleca maneuvered down the slot and his shot deflected off DeSmith's helmet into the netting behind the end boards.
UNH called time out with 38 seconds remaining, but the Warriors keep the puck in the offensive zone to generate a Jesse Todd shot that DeSmith had to stop. The visitors regained possession and Brendan Ellis' shot from the left point was blocked by Hardowa high into the air, and DeSmith gloved the puck to freeze play.
New Hampshire returns to action next weekend with a home-and-home series against Boston College. The Wildcats play on the road Jan. 27 (7:30 p.m.) in a game that will be televised on NESN. UNH's next home game is Saturday, Jan. 28. Puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center with coverage on WBIN-TV. Tickets to the B.C. game and all remaining UNH home games are available online at www.UNHWildcats.com.