NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Merrimack and New Brunswick combined for 172 penalties — 107 against Merrimack’s Canadian opponents — as the Warriors opened their 2016-17 season with a 5-3 win on Saturday night.
The story was more the antics of the Warriors’ opponent than the score, however.
New Brunswick was whistled for 107 penalty minutes, including five misconduct penalties. Merrimack was assessed 65 penalty minutes.
“Our goal with these exhibitions is obviously to evaluate our players and come out of it healthy,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “Along those lines, I’m definitely not happy.
“That was wild,” Dennehy continued. “That wasn’t a hockey game. There were players screaming. It was just disrespectful. It was disappointing.”
Late in the third period, New Brunswick goalie Etienne Marcoux was ejected after two-hand slashing Merrimack forward Alfred Larsson across the arm. While leaving the ice, he swung his stick in the tunnel and nearly made contact with a young fan who was hanging over the wall. The fan appeared to be heckling the 23-year-old goaltender. He missed, thankfully, but another UNB player smashed his stick against the glass on the bench, scaring off the young fan.
(Update: Arena security confirmed the incident, as well as several fans sitting in the section where it occurred. There was an older fan, a teenager, who was ejected after the incident, per security).
Also, for some reason, New Brunswick’s head coach was not even on the bench for much of the game.
Merrimack’s Ryan Cook left the game in the first period after taking a high hit to the head. He didn’t return. But the Warriors, somewhat miraculously, seemed to get out of the game unscathed with the exception of Cook’s injury.
The antics left Dennehy, and likely other head coaches around Hockey East, wondering if there isn’t a better way. Northeastern and Acadia combined for 114 penalty minutes and BU and Prince Edward Island combined for 122 penalty minutes.
“Yes, unequivocally, yes,” Dennehy said when asked if games like this made him question if there was a better way to prepare for the season. “You do get something out of these games that you don’t get out of an exhibition, but there has to be a better way. I don’t know why we can’t just scrimmage ourselves? Maybe scrimmaging NCAA teams is a solution. We’re paying (New Brunswick) for that game, too. We’re giving a guarantee. It’s a head-scratcher.”
Foget Tallies Two
Merrimack sophomore forward Matt Foget found the back of the net twice. The points won’t count in the season standings, but it was another impressive performance from Foget, who really seemed to turn a corner during the second half of last season.
“As a natural freshman last year, he finished strong,” Dennehy said. “He had two (goals) tonight. Ludvig had a nice one. I thought we were pretty good when we entered with speed and possession. It was a nice night for Matty. That part of our game was good, but it’s also instinctual. We need to be better away from the puck, when we don’t have possession.”
Pantano Makes His Debut
Sophomore goaltender Craig Pantano made his Merrimack debut, stopping 17 shots in the second period. Pantano was in goal for multiple penalty kills in the second. Drew Vogler started for the Warriors and Collin Delia played the third period.
“I thought the goalies battled,” said Dennehy. “(Pantano) made some great saves. The other guys weren’t challenged as much, but looked solid. LeBlanc and Hampus were both strong. When we played hockey we looked OK, but there was plenty to work on. It was the first game of the year.”