Merrimack tops Kingswood

They may have to climb through the ranks to get to the Division II finals, but the Merrimack High School boys hockey team showed on Wednesday it still has that tournament touch.

Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, the No. 7 Tomahawks (11-8) rode a Mark Feeney hat trick to cruise past No. 10 Kingswood, 6-1, in a preliminary round contest at JFK Coliseum.

The ’Hawks now face a stiff test in the quarterfinals on Saturday at second seeded Dover, but they will enjoy this one for now as they took advantage of three power play goals.

“When it comes playoff hockey you know there’s not going to be any easy game,” Merrimack coach Kurt Mithoefer said. “You’ve got to have everything clicking. Power play, when you get them, you have to capitalize on them, because those could be the big turning point.”

After a scoreless first period, Kingswood (7-12) struck first on Austin Chasse’s shorthanded goal on a rebound of a Owen Gonya shot at 5:19 of the second period. ’Hawks netminder Devin Gillis had no chance, but did stop 17 other shots.

But the Tomahawks rallied to lead 2-1 by period’s end as Feeney struck twice on nearly identical shots, both long distance blasts that Knights goalie Alex Seigars (29 saves) had no chance on.

“Once we got a good lead, I felt a little confident,” Feeney, a senior, said. “We just started scoring, putting them away.”

The first came at 9:15, assisted by Aaron Tupper. The second, aimed a little higher, was at 11:57 on the power play. Ryan Downie and Shane Foye earned assists.

“Mark’s had a big shot the last couple of years,” Mithoefer said. “This could have been his last playoff game. He had to come up big and he did.”

Merrimack’s power play continued to click in the third. A five-minute major hit from behind call on Kingswood’s Owen Richard produced two power-play scores as the ’Hawks increased their lead to 4-1.

“The power plays hurt us,” Kingswood coach Andrew Trimble said. “It was a 2-1 game until that five minute major. That was the end.”

Jason Fortin scored unassisted at 5:12 off a Knights turnover right in front of Seigars, Feeney then scored 39 seconds later for the hat trick, assisted by Tupper and Foye again. This time his long range shot deflected of the stick of Knight Peter Marshall.

Merrimack made it 5-1 at 10:38 as Foye scored an even strength goal, assisted by Aiden O’Brien and Downie. Tucker Twardosky, from Jeff Gerhard and Evan McCormick, finished the scoring with 26.9 ticks left.

The ’Hawks will now try to avenge a last-minute 3-2 loss earlier to the Green Wave.

“Where we were then to where we are now, we’re a better team,” Mithoefer said.