DURHAM — Although Merrimack College began the weekend with the worst goals-against average in Division I college hockey, you wouldn’t have known it by what took place on the Whittemore Center ice Friday night.
Merrimack entered the game allowing an average of 4.05 goals per game — the most among the 60 Division I teams — but the University of New Hampshire failed to score in the first period, came up empty in the second and was held to one goal in the third.
UNH’s third-period goal was a big one, however, as it tied the game and allowed the Wildcats to pull out a 2-1 victory when left wing Angus Crookshank scored 53 seconds into overtime. The winning goal resulted from a giveaway in the defensive zone; UNH’s Liam Blackburn tapped a loose puck to Crookshank, who fired home a wrist shot from the doorstep.
“It was a pretty cool feeling for sure,” Crookshank said when asked about scoring in OT. “They’re a really hard-working team. They outworked us in the first period, but we stuck to it and got a character win that will help us in the Hockey East standings.”
Bedford’s Mike Robinson made 24 saves for the Wildcats (6-7-5, 2-4-3), who extended their winning streak to four games.
Merrimack led 1-0 until left wing Ara Nazarian jammed the puck into the net during a scrum around Merrimack goaltender Drew Vogler. It was Nazarian’s team-high eighth goal of the season, and came with 11:42 left in the third period. The assists were credited to Charlie Kelleher and defenseman Benton Maass.
“Credit to Merrimack, they played hard,” UNH coach Mike Souza said. “We got outplayed in stretches, but we made one more play at the end of the day. They did a good job not allowing us to play in transition. They gave us all we could handle tonight.”
Vogler started the game with an 0-3-0 record and a 4.82 goals-against average, but made 33 saves in the tie.
“We battled for 60 minutes and our goalie obviously played great,” said Merrimack coach Scott Borek, a former UNH assistant. “I was really proud of (Vogler’s) effort, just disappointed he didn’t get rewarded for it.”
Center Michael Babcock, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, scored for Merrimack (4-15-1, 2-9-0) 1:46 into the opening period. That was it for the scoring until Nazarian pulled UNH even on a goal that was originally disallowed before the call was reversed following a replay review.
Merrimack surrendered at least five goals in six of its previous eight games. The Warriors allowed seven goals in a game three times during that span, and also gave up nine goals in a loss to Northeastern.
Josh Ciocco, who was a forward at UNH, is an assistant on the Merrimack staff. …
UNH was without defenseman Max Gildon (upper-body injury). Gildon has a team-high 14 points (three goals) in 16 games. …
UNH will play Yale in Durham tonight (7). …