ORONO — In a penalty-filled, brawl-marred hockey game, Merrimack College avoided elimination in the Hockey East tournament, with a 5-2 win over the University of Maine Saturday night, before 4,594 at Alfond Arena.

Maine (21-12-3) and Merrimack (19-11-7) will play the deciding game of this best-of-3 opening series tonight at 7 p.m.
And the whistles may continue.
“Both team obviously don’t like each other,” said Merrimack forward Rhett Bly, who scored two goals.
The game broke a Hockey East playoff record for penalties (50) and penalty minutes (184). There were also three ejections, including two after a multi-player fight with three minutes left (Maine’s Joey Diamond and Merrimack’s Elliott Sheen going off).
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said the penalties - especially the matching calls - were part of Merrimack’s plan.
“They had a strategy and it worked - get our best guys in the box,” Whitehead said.
“It was obvious. After every whistle, you pair up, grab a guy and try to get him in the box. It’s not a secret.
“It worked (Saturday). Hopefully, it won’t work (Sunday). It’s up to us not to get goaded into those situations.”
After Saturday’s game, the teams did not shake hands. Whitehead said he didn’t notice that, but said the teams would definitely shake hands after tonight’s deciding game.

Tonight’s winner goes onto the league Final Four next week at the TD Garden. The loser risks missing out of the NCAA playoffs.
On Saturday, Merrimack took a 4-1 lead after two periods. The defensive-minded Warriors have not lost this year when they’ve scored at least three goals.
Matt Mangene gave Maine a 1-0 lead with a short-handed in the first period, but Merrimack took over.
Ahead 2-1 after the first period, the Warriors scored two goals, 20 seconds apart, late in the second period to all but clinch it.
Adam Shemansky’s third-period power-play goal closed it to 4-2 at 8:03.
Merrimack added an empty-netter with two seconds left.
The first period began with matching penalties 11 seconds into the game, against Spencer Abbott, Maine’s leading scorer, and Sheen.
Referees Tim Benedetto and Kevin Shea were just getting started.
On Merrimack’s first power play, Mangene took possession at center ice, flew into the left circle and scored on the far post, at 3:51.
Merrimack tied it less than two minutes later on Bly’s rebound goal at 5:39. Josh Myers’ power-play goal at 13:33 game Merrimack the lead for good.
Merrimack’s Jeff Velleca scored on a rebound at 17:55. At 18:15, Bly got his second goal, in a crowd in front of the net, for a 4-1 lead.
In the third period, the penalties continued. At one point, the teams were going at it, three-on-three.
Shemansky’s goal came on a rebound of Diamond’s shot.
Tempers culminated into a brawl with three minutes left, making for another delay in the game that took 2 hours and 45 minutes.
NOTES: In other Hockey East action, Boston University beat New Hampshire 4-2 to even their series. They play the third game today at 4 p.m. … Providence and UMass-Lowell took Saturday off. They play the deciding game in their series today at 5 p.m. … Boston College eliminated Massachusetts with a 3-2 win, advancing the Eagles to the semifinals.

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