Frozen Fenway: Merrimack, Providence Skate to 1-1 Tie

Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen looks to find the puck with Providence forward Nick Saracino waiting near the goal. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

All the offense in the game came within 2:26 of the third period

Boston, Mass. -- If it was a baseball game it would have been described as a pitcher's duel, but Saturday's hockey game at Fenway Park could best be described as a defensive struggle with Providence and Merrimack taking over two periods to adjust to the choppy ice on Boston's hallowed ballpark.

"It was a good hockey game, a typical Hockey East game except it was at Fenway Park," said Providence coach Nate Leaman. "It's a good experience. It's one of those things that it's circled on your calendar at the beginning of the year," added the third year bench boss.

The Friars and the Warriors skated to a 1-1 tie in the first game of the Hockey East Frozen Fenway double header thanks to two scores just 2:26 apart in the third period.

Both coaches said the close result was what they expected.

"We are both pretty hard nosed teams playing a hard-fought game. We played them three times and it came down to a bounce of the puck each time. It wasn't the result we would have wanted, but playing the number four team in the country it could have gone either way.

"We've played Merrimack three times and all have been close games. They have a good team and their goaltender played well tonight," said Leaman.

Boston native and Catholic Memorial alum Mike Collins opened the scoring on the power play at the 7:23 mark of the third period. The goal came immediately after the Warriors got back to even strength and with two Friars in the box.

Local Boy Mike Collins Scores at Fenway

Collins received a pass from defenseman Brendan Ellis who had drawn a defender over to him. Collins turned and quickly ripped it past Providence goaltender Nick Ellis.

"Elly dragged the guy over and made a good play. He dished it to me and I just caught [Providence goaltender Nick] Ellis to the short-side," said Collins.

"It was pretty special," added Collins when asked about scoring a goal at the ballpark he grew up watching the Red Sox.

Just over two minutes later Providence cashed in on a power play opportunity of its own. With Merrimack out of position John Gilmour fed a wide open Steven Shamanski who skated in and dangled past one Merrimack defender before going around goaltender Rasmus Tirronen and tucking it in the near post.

"Gilmour passed it to me. I was looking to one time it, but it was kind of a bobbling puck because of the ice conditions. I saw a guy sliding so I just kind of worked around him and tried to get the best shot away off the net. It worked out," said Shamanski.

Despite power play chances for both teams in the final few minutes of regulation neither team could muster much in the way of offensive chances.

"Merrimack makes it tough. We had a lot of shot attempts, but they blocked a lot of shots. They make it tough to get to their net. They're not an easy team to score against because when you do get it through you have Tirronen there," said Leaman.

Leaman was pleased with how his team responded following a lackluster performance against Air Force in the Ledyard Bank Classic championship game, but thought his team could have been better at closing out opportunities.

"I was happy with the way we played tonight. I wasn't happy with the way we finished. I thought our best chances we missed the net. I thought we had some really good chances, seven or eight odd man rushes, and we didn't get a lot done with them," said Leaman.

Both goalies played well considering the challenging environment. Tirronen finished with 32 saves while Ellis stopped 30 shots.

"Looking into the lights it kind of blinded you a little. You couldn't overplay pucks with the boards," said Ellis.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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