Merrimack and Maine skated to a 1-1 tie Friday night at Alfond Arena in Orono. The two teams traded chances, including some squandered opportunities, but the inability for either team to finish and some solid goaltending kept the game even.
Dan Kolomatis sniped one top shelf at the end of a largely ineffective power play for Merrimack at the 3:16 mark of the second period. The score would stay 1-0 Merrimack until Maine capitalized on a power play midway through the third period. Kyle Beattie banged one past Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta after a rush up ice that was started by Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.
Here's five observations from Friday's game:
1. Merrimack's offense has been shockingly inconsistent. The team is very young, and lacks a lot of the talent that made the Warriors an upper half team the past two seasons. Mark Dennehy's team can skate with any team in the league and has some guys with real good speed, but lacks finishers. That inability to bury chances will keep the Warriors out of the fourth or fifth seeds when the playoffs start.
2. Joey Diamond clearly misses Brian Flynn and Spencer Abbott, but he is still the best play maker the Black Bears have. Opposing teams know they can take him off his game by getting under his skin, causing him to retaliate or focus on things other than scoring. Diamond needs to stay out of the penalty box and focus on scoring if the Black Bears have any chance of climbing out of the basement.
3. It is too bad that Maine is having such a bad year because freshman defenseman Ben Hutton is quietly putting up a solid season. He is a smooth skating defender who can transition the puck up ice well. His one weakness is his occasional careless play with the puck. He is tied for the team lead in scoring by a defenseman with two goals and five assists. The Vancouver draft pick has the best plus/minus of all the Maine blueliners and is tied for the team lead with Stu Higgins at -1.
4. Friday night marked the first time all year a Merrimack goaltender has started two games in a row. Coming off a 30 save shutout last Saturday night, Sam Marotta made 31 saves on 32 shots, preserving the tie. The Bridgewater, MA native is quietly putting up very good numbers, now with a 2.04 GAA and a .928 save percentage. It will be interesting to see if the rotation continues or if Dennehy rides the hot hand.
5. With the exceptions of two rough outings against Cornell and Merrimack, Maine junior goaltender Martin Ouellette has given Maine a chance to win a lot of games since taking over as the number one goaltender. He made some good saves in traffic Friday night, keeping the Warriors from finding the back of twine more than once. The Columbus draft pick is finally showing signs of why the Blue Jackets drafted him out of Kimball Union Academy.