The Union hockey team honored its 2011-12 accomplishments by unfurling four banners.
Merrimack center Josh Myers and goalie Sam Marotta made sure that would be the only thing the Dutchmen would celebrate Saturday night.
Myers scored two goals less than three minutes apart early in the third-period, and Marotta made 33 saves as the Warriors upset the fifth-ranked Dutchmen, 4-1, in the season-opening game for both teams before a sellout crowd of 2,087 at Messa Rink.
“We definitely weren’t our sharpest,” Union defenseman and captain Mat Bodie said. “It’s the first game of the season, and we haven’t even had a full week of practice. That’s no excuse. Obviously, we didn’t have our ‘A’ game today. Credit Merrimack, they had a great game. I’m glad we get to play them again in December.”
The Dutchmen’s four banners were for winning their second straight ECAC Hockey regular-season title, their first ECACH tournament championship, their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and their first Frozen Four appearance.
Then the game began. The Warriors took the lead just over four minutes in when Rhett Bly beat goalie Troy Grosenick. Mat Bodie tied it for the Dutchmen at 7:25 of the second period.
Even though the Dutchmen had the advantage in shots in goal through two periods, 26-17, the Warriors seemed to have more jump. Still, the score was tied, 1-1, heading into the third, which usually is a strong period for Union.
But not this time.
Myers’ hustle set up his go-ahead goal. He outskated Union senior Ryan Forgaard down the left wing to negate an icing. Shawn Bates won the puck battle with Forgaard then got the puck and sent it in front to Myers, who beat goalie Troy Grosenick to his right side 2:42 into the third.
“It’s hybrid icing, and we talk about all the time winning that race,” Myers said. “Batesie was right on him, and he was able to get the body. [The puck] trickled out short side, and I was able to tuck it in.”
Grosenick took the blame for the goal.
“I completely misread the play,” Grosenick said. “I thought a guy picked that up and was wrapping it around the other side. That kid [Myers] beat me to that post. That was is on me.”
Then, 2:29 later, Myers struck again. After Grosenick stopped a John Heffernan shot, he left a juicy rebound in front. With no one to check him, Myers got the puck and put it past Grosenick.
“It was a quick play out of the corner,” Grosenick said. “It was a rebound that I should have been able to smother there. [Myers] got a stick on it and put it over me.”
Kyle Singleton was awarded an empty-net goal with 1:03 left when he was pulled down by Dutchmen defenseman Greg Coburn on a breakaway. Grosenick had been pulled for an extra attacker.
“Maybe we had it coming to us,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “All the press, the publicity, maybe it’s a lot for guys from 18 years old to 22 to handle. I look at that as a positive. We learned our lesson, and we’re going to move forward.”
The Dutchmen outshot the Warriors, 34-27. Still, it’s a bit misleading. Union didn’t create traffic in front of Marotta.
“It wasn’t just one man tonight,” Marotta said. “I saw everything tonight. I had control of my rebounds pretty well, for the most part, and I was pretty happy with that. Kudos to my D-men, who did a great job.”
Bennett will make sure that the Dutchmen will work on getting traffic in front of the opposing goalie when they resume practices.
“[Marotta] is a big guy,” Bennett said. “We didn’t make him move. Basically, like a center fielder, [he] was catching [the pucks] at will. The one time we did screen him, it’s a goal.”
Merrimack 1 0 3 — 4
Union 0 1 0 — 1
First Period — 1, Merrimack, Bly 1 (Kolomatis, McCarthy), 4:04. Penalties — Hefferman, Mer (cross-checking), 7:38; Gostisbehere, Uni (checking from behind), 12:48; Ellis, Mer (hooking), 17:06; Ciampini, Uni (charging goalie), 20:00.
Second Period — 2, Union, M. Bodie 1 (Gingras), 7:25. Penalties — M. Bodie, Uni (roughing), 2:32; Bates, Mer (cross-checking), 9:18; Sullivan, Uni (boarding), 11:05; Wills, Mer (tripping), 15:50.
Third Period — 3, Merrimack, Myers 1 (Bates), 2:42. 4, Merrimack, Myers 2 (Heffernan, Bates), 5:01. 5, Merrimack, Singleton 1 (Ellis, Heywood), 18:57 (en). Penalty — Toomey, Mer (slashing), 14:18.
Shots on Goal — Merrimack 6-11-10 — 27. Union 16-10-8 — 34.
Power-play opportunities — Merrimack 0 of 4; Union 0 of 5.
Goalies — Merrimack, Marotta 1-0-0 (26 shots-25 saves). Union, Grosenick 0-1-0 (26-23).
A — 2,087. T — 2:10.
Referees — Kevin Graber, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Philip Kitchen.