St. Thomas edges Merrimack hockey

By TOM KING

Staff Writer

MANCHESTER – The Merrimack High School boys hockey team certainly hopes whatever hurts it will make it stronger.

The Tomahawks fell to 2-4-1 in Division II on Monday after enduring a tough 4-3 sudden-death overtime defeat at the hands of St. Thomas Aquinas at JFK Coliseum.

That loss, suffered thanks to Brock Crowley’s power-play goal at 4:35 of the extra session, came on the heels of a 3-3 tie over the weekend against Kingswood after the ‘Hawks had a 3-1 lead and outshot the Knights 48-18. Ouch again.

"Today this team was a strong team (4-4) and we came out perfect against them," Merrimack coach Matt Davis said. "There were a couple of times we were a little timid at the beginning, but we realized we could play with them and it gave us a little bit of confidence.

"In all honesty, I’d rather see what we have against good teams instead of take the easy way out. They fight through adversity which is the number one thing I want out of these kids."

They did a good job of that on Monday, never leading but always battling back to tie things up thanks to John Tiano’s dramatic hat trick. His third goal came with 39.6 seconds left in regulation with ‘Hawks goalie Greg Amato pulled.

However, in the overtime, Merrimack’s Stephen Licata was called for tripping. Early in the power play, the Saints’ Crowley fired a shot off the faceoff won by Patrick Vetter on the right side, and it beat a screened Amato (16 saves).

"We had a tough run recently, so I didn’t know what to think of that (tying goal)," St. Thomas coach Peter Harwood said. "The kids came back with a lot of character. Given the power play, they did exactly what we drew up. We lost two 2-1 games in row, so that was a big win for us."

The game was tied 1-1 after one and 2-2 after two. St. Thomas’ first two goals were by Christian Torr (assisted by Will Maclean) and Baxter Kimball (assisted by Hunter Saxton).

Tiano answered the first on the power play midway through the first, assisted by Regan Sedlar, and scored on a breakaway at 4:57 of the second, spurred by a Remy Tupper up-ice feed.

However, Merrimack was playing with a short bench after in-game injuries to freshman Matt Warrington and senior Owen Hastings.

It looked especially bleak for the ‘Hawks – who didn’t get a shot off during a five-minute power play in the second – when the Saints’ Saxton scored off a Kimball centering pass at 8:14 of the third for a 3-2 St. Thomas lead.

But there was Tiano again in the final minute of the third, firing from the outside to beat Saints goalie Aidan McLoughlin (10 stops) after he got the puck from Greg Bourque with Owen O’Brien also getting an assist.

"He’s a good captain, he keeps his head up at all times but also comes through in big situations," Davis said of Tiano. "He was a little disappointed after the last game so he came in with a little bit of a vengeance."

And that, Davis hopes, is what the Tomahawks will do for the rest of the season.