The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team’s biggest weakness this season was the difference in its 6-2 loss to Merrimack College Saturday at Lawler Rink in North Andover, Mass.
UNH, which entered Saturday’s game with the worst penalty-kill percentage in the country (67.5), surrendered four power-play goals Saturday — Merrimack’s most in a game since 2017 — and six in the weekend series.
Merrimack (4-10-2) and the Wildcats (5-13-3) skated to a 3-3 tie Friday.
UNH entered Saturday ranked ninth in the Hockey East Power Index, which will determine seeding for the conference playoffs, with a 43.94 mark. The Warriors were ranked 10th (43.28).
“I don’t think it was the plan. Our execution wasn’t great,” Wildcats coach Mike Souza said of his team’s penalty-kill unit. “It hasn’t been good. It’s been terrible actually so we need to get better at it collectively. We’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to execute better.”
The Wildcats have allowed nine power-play goals over their last three series.
Merrimack had a 3-0 lead entering the third period on three power-play goals and halted the Wildcats’ comeback attempt with three goals, including its fourth tally on the man advantage, over the final 9:55.
UNH’s Filip Engaras and Ryan Verrier scored over a 1-minute, 35-second span to pull the Wildcats within a goal. Merrimack responded with senior forward Max Newton’s slap-shot goal from the left point and Liam Walsh’s rebound power-play tally from the crease to regain its three-goal advantage.
The Warriors capped the game’s scoring with a goal from Ben Brar that came with 5:49 left.
Souza said he felt the Wildcats had momentum after Engaras and Verrier’s goals before a bad line change and neutral-zone turnover led to Merrimack’s fourth score.
“It’s all about game management,” Souza said. “You don’t deserve to win when you do those things.”
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission behind power-play goals from Logan Drevitch and Filip Forsmark.
Drevitch netted a power-play goal on a low, near-side shot that beat UNH senior goaltender Mike Robinson (19 saves) glove side with 8:49 left in the first period to open the game’s scoring. Forsmark doubled the Warriors’ lead with his doorstep power-play goal via an assist from Liam Walsh with 6:29 remaining in the opening frame.
Chase Gresock scored a rebound goal from the right circle on Merrimack’s third power-play opportunity with four minutes left in the middle frame to give the Warriors a 3-0 cushion.
UNH went 0-for-6 Saturday and 0-for-10 in the series on the power play. Souza said the Wildcats needed more urgency with getting pucks to the net on the power play Saturday but also credited Merrimack for blocking shots and staying in lanes. The Warriors blocked 19 shots in the victory.
“They kill very much like us,” Souza said of the Warriors. “They just out-executed us.”
Merrimack freshman goaltender Zachary Borgiel made 24 saves.
Wildcats sophomore forward Chase Stevenson, senior defenseman Benton Maass and freshman defenseman Nikolai Jenson all missed the Merrimack series with injuries.
“Special teams were the difference, for sure,” Souza said.