The Warriors move to 4-0-1 in their last five, while UMass drops their fifth straight contest. The two switch places in the Hockey East standings with the Warriors now in seventh place.
The game ended much the way it was during play: with a mass of players at the Warriors goal.
It's a shutout for Cannata, his first of the season and third of his career. He stopped 42 shots, being downright inhuman at times.
Third period, 2:00, 3-0: Some very sloppy play going on from the Minutemen. Someone completely whiffed on corralling a pass, sending UMass scrambling to hunt it down.
Third period, 2:24, 3-0: The arena is emptying in droves as both teams are playing out the string.
Third period, 3:53, 3-0 Merrimack: You can call the game. The freshman DaCosta takes a neutral zone turnover and brings home the third goal.
DaCosta sent the puck in the air just past Meyers' outstretched hand.
Third period, 6:02, 2-0: The Minutemen were able to keep flushing the puck down the ice, and the Warriors come away from the power play empty-handed. They're still winning the game 2-0, and the game is about to enter the final five minutes of play.
Third period, 8:05, 2-0: A bit of recklessness from Nolet, and he's sent to the penalty box for interference. The Minutemen really can't afford to give Merrimack an ability to play to their strength — the power play.
They just did, obviously.
Third period, 8:45, 2-0: There's been a few breaks in play lately thanks to icing, timeouts and commercial breaks. Hobbs just sent the puck out of play to stop the clock again. It's getting to be desperation time for the Minutemen.
Third period, 9:24, 2-0: UMass goalie just turned away a hart shot from Chris Barton. You could tell that both teams thought that puck was going in.
Third period, 11:01, 2-0: Yet more shoving at the Merrimack goal. Cannata goes for a quick skate as the referee breaks things up.
Cannata has a season-high 39 saves tonight while his opposite is at 17 — just three so far in the third period.
UMass has returned to having the upper hand, but it hasn't paid off yet.
Third period, 14:22, 2-0: UMass had a two-man advantage going — albeit very briefly, as Jamieson got back on the ice shortly after the Ouimet penalty — that Will Ortiz breaks up with slashing. The fans and bench are very displeased with the call, and Ortiz had to rein in his anger lest he be forced to stay in the penalty box longer.
The teams are currently playing 4-on-4.
Third period, 14:49, 2-0: Another opportunity in front of the Warrior goal ends in another missed opportunity for the Minutemen.
The physical play just keeps on flying. Warrior Francis Ouimet was just called for hooking.
As the hooking was occurring, Braun sent a shot to the Warriors goal that was denied just as Merrimack's Fraser Allan sent Carzo hard to the ice.
UMass has called a timeout.
Third period, 16:22, 2-0: The Minutemen are pushing the puck up the ice with reckless abandon and there are bodies flying all over the ice.
There's yet another tussle in front of the Merrimack as the Warriors voice their frustration. Carzo wiped out a Warrior in front of the goal, then John Jamieson knocked Carzo to the ground as soon as he got back up.
It gives the Minutemen a power play opportunity as Jamieson is tabbed for cross-checking.
Third period, 18:00, 2-0: The Minutemen are playing hard, matching the Warriors in physicality — and perhaps surpassing it. A particularly hard check by Nolet stops play, sending him to join Lecomte in the penalty box.
Third period, 19:17, 2-0: Cannata was trying to fetch the puck behind the goal, and Michael Lecomte of UMass made him pay for it, throwing in a check.
He was immediately knocked to the crowd as the Merrimack players were far from pleased. Lecomte heads to the penalty box for charging, opening up a chance for the Warriors to grab a 3-0 lead.
Lecomte threw an object at the penalty box camera in anger, throwing the camera askew. All we can see of him is a skate.
Beginning of third period, 2-0 Merrimack: UMass forward Brett Watson is answering some questions from NESN analyst Eric Frede, and basically said that if UMass keeps at it, "good things will come."
Watson admits that some guys are pressing — especially given their recent slide of late — but all that needs to be done is working hard and getting back to the basics.
We'll see if the third period represents a return to the basics or if the Warriors can snap the 11-game winning streak the Minutemen have over Merrimack at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen controlled the first period and first half of the second period, but it's been all blue and gold since.
End of second period, 2-0 Merrimack: Not a whole lot going on in the final minute. The Minutemen tried to make the power play work to their effect, but a determined Warriors squad just wouldn't have it.
Second period, 1:00, 2-0: Flanigan just got down and dirty, hugging the ice to prevent the puck from breaking away from the sides. He got a few whacks on the head, but Flanigan succeeded in disrupting the Minutemen opportunity.
Second period, 1:55, 2-0: DaCosta was quiet early on in the game, but he's been in the middle of all the action lately — and just got a little too involved. A hooking call was placed on DaCosta, giving the Minutemen their third power play chance.
The Minutemen keep trying to make opportunities come to them, and they may have just found one.
Second period, 4:15, 2-0: UMass had a very costly turnover behind the goal and Kimball almost capitalized on it.
Second period, 7:12, 2-0 Merrimack: Another goal for Merrimack. This one comes from Brandon Brodhag, after DaCosta and Sadlowski engage in some nice passing.
Brodhog found himself right in front of the goal, able to chip in the pass from Cucci. 2-1 Merrimack.
The Warriors have now converted 33 of a possible 127 power play opportunities on the season.
Second period, 7:50, 1-0: A penalty right off the draw by UMass' Marcou, cross-checking. Not good news against a team suddenly catching fire and notoriously good on the power play.
Second period, 8:00, 1-0: Meyers turns away Cucci's shot, and the momentum has completely shifted. For the first time in the game, it's the Warriors bringing the pressure.
Merrimack was outshot in the first period 13-5. In the second period they've closed the gap in shots on goal, trailing 11-7 in shots on goal for the period.
Second period, 9:42, 1-0: A major push by UMass goes awry as the Warriors, playing with newfound confidence, make a play at a second goal. Meyers denies it, giving him eight saves on the game.
Second period, 11:32, 1-0 Merrimack: Merrimack comes through for a goal as UMass completely broke down on that play. It's fourth-line wing Flanigan (third of season) lighting the lamp past Meyers' right arm.
Second period, 12:00, 0-0: The Minutemen are still controlling the game, and their speed has only gotten more pronounced in this period. Merrimack keeps fishing for the puck and dumping it back in Minutemen territory, but it doesn't seem to faze their opponents.
Second period, 13:36, 0-0: Another Cammata save as Syner tries to sneak one past the goalie's right foot.
Scott Saunders follows that up with another attempt, but there's no getting past the wall that Cannata is suddenly imitating.
Second period, 15:06, 0-0: Syner goes deep again and rounds the Warriors goal, but his quick pass slides past the blue line.
Second period, 15:57, 0-0: The Minutemen thought they had a goal with the red light flashing, but the referee waved the goal off.
The Minutemen are celebrating as if they scored, however, as video replay will be used to determine whether it was a goal or not. Daniel Hobbs fired on the Merrimack goal, but Cannata deflected it.
Bobby Kramer's skate was able to slide the puck into the goal, however.
The referees have just nullified the goal — the puck was directed in. Can't have that. Kramer clearly attempted to kick the puck into the goal.
Second period, 16:15, 0-0: Justin Braun feeds Carzo with a beautiful pass that Carzo attempts to bury past Cannata, but the goalie racks up his 15th save.
Second period, 18:55, 0-0: T.J. Syner gets the action going in the second period with a long run towards the Merrimack goal, but gets denied in the end.
End of first period, 0-0: Some intense hockey going on. Massachusetts has the speed advantage and notched 13 shots on goal. Merrimack is trying to counteract the Minutemen push by playing more physical but it hasn't translated into success yet.
You have to think that eventually, the Minutemen will get a goal in simply due to the number of shots on goal they have (the Warriors have five).
First period, 0:11, 0-0: Nolet and DaCosta aren't too pleased with each other right now. A lot of jawing going on.
First period 0:55, 0-0: Cucci faked a shot and sent it to Karl Stollery, but Stollery's shot is deflected just wide. Massachusetts dumps the puck.
First period 2:18, 0-0: UMass' James Marcou gets a penalty, giving Merrimack a power play. The Warriors have excelled with power play efficiency all season.
First period, 3:25, 0-0: Nolet and top Warriors player Stephane DaCosta had a nice rhythm going on, but the puck gets dumped back into Warriors territory, where the Minutemen put the pressure on yet again.
First period, 5:07, 0-0: Another power play wasted for UMass. Merrimack playing physical, trying to counteract Massachusett's speed.
First period, 7:07, 0-0, 0-0: Michael Marcou had a shot ready to go, but Pat Kimball thought otherwise, hitting from behind. He'll exit to the penalty box, giving UMass another shot at a power play. The NESN announcers as well as Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy believe the penalty was a heads up play that the referee was out of position for.
First period, 8:25, 0-0: Jeff Velleca geared up a shot, but Minutemen goalie Meyers rejects the attempt. It's only the third save for Meyers while Warriors goalie Cannata's turned away 12 so far.
First period, 9:27, 0-0: Rocco Carzo just shook up a Warrior after a check into the boards by Merrimack's goalie. The Minutemen look in control, with Merrimack desperately trying to get the puck on the other side of the ice.
First period, 10:07, 0-0: The 4-on-4 ends, with both teams playing keepaway the whole time until the end, when the Minutemen brought the pressure on.
Yet more tussling at the goal, with Warriors' Ryan Flanigan having to be pulled off a Minuteman.
First period, 12:08, 0-0: A bit of a tussle going on at the Merrimack goal, as the Minutemen keep the pressure on. Brandon Sadlowski of Merrimack and Chase Langeraap head to the penalty box for hitting after the whistle.
Prior to the dust-up, Marc Concannon almost snuck one past Cannata.
First period, 13:10, 0-0: The power play ends with Merrimack holding UMass off, although the Minutemen were able to keep the pressure on.
The last seconds of the power play looked like UMass would grab a goal, but all the men around the goal enabled Merrimack to gain control.
First period, 14:12, 0-0: Merrimack converts 25.6 percent of its power play opportunities while holding opponents to 19 percent. Massachusetts is at 21.3 percent, so we'll see who gets the upper hand on power play ability early on.
A shift change occurs, with No. 2 Martin Nolet sending a shot right into Cannata's glove.
First period, 15:14, 0-0: A lot of activity going on on the Warriors' side of the ice. A penalty is issued for Merrimack's Kyle Bigos due to interference, giving the Minutemen a power play opportunity.
First period, 15:40, 0-0: An errant pass from Minutemen points leader James Marcou gives Merrimack a chance to score, with Elliot Sheen approaching the goal. Minutes later, UMass gets the ice across the blue line to stop the threat.
First period, 17:00, 0-0: The Minutemen are controlling the game early, pushing the puck up the ice.
First period, 20:00, 0-0: Massachusetts wins the face-off, taking the puck deep into Warrior territory before losing it.
Dan Meyers is in between the posts for Massachusetts, while Joe Cannata guards Merrimack's goal.
4:45 p.m.: On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Massachusetts and Merrimack will finish up a home-and-home series that saw Merrimack down the Minutemen Friday night with a 4-1 victory. Merrimack moved to a nation-best 11-2 at home, but boasts just a 12-15-1 record overall.
The Warriors are unbeaten in their last four contests, and will face stiff competition in the No. 18 Massachusetts (16-14) squad, who has beaten Merrimack 11 straight times at Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. and are hungry to turn around their four-game losing streak.
Merrimack already has an impressive season in the books, recording the most wins in a Warriors season since 1996-97. Their power play ranks second in the nation among Division 1 teams.
A player to watch is Joe Cucci, who grabbed his first hat trick Friday night and will look to follow that up with another strong game.
We'll be back here at 7:30 p.m., ready to bring you Hockey East action. You can also watch the game along with us on NESN.
(Photo credit: Thom Kendall Photography)