Ed. Note — This story will appear in Monday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
NORTH ANDOVER — Scott Borek doesn’t sugarcoat it. Losing two games to Lake Superior State — Sunday’s finale a 1-0 loss — wasn’t the way he wanted to start his Merrimack career. But, the Warriors will take some positives away from the weekend series at Lawler Arena.
For starters, Merrimack out-attempted the Lakers 134-68 in the series. That’s an eye-popping differential. On Sunday, Merrimack attempted 37 shots from inside “the house,” which is the area between the faceoff dots and below the tops of the circles. NHL analytics experts say about 70 percent of goals come from inside this zone and Merrimack had a 37-15 edge in shot attempts from that coveted area of the ice yesterday.
“You can’t make it look good when it’s not,” Borek said. “I thought we got off to a very slow start. Then we got desperate later in the game and played much better. If we played that way the whole game, we might have had 50 shots. I’m disappointed in the start, but happy with the way the guys finished the game. We played hard and stayed together.
“We need to score by volume shooting because we didn’t return many goals,” Borek continued. “We need to get more pucks at the goalie’s feet and get pucks to the net. We need to get ugly goals, and we got some (Saturday) night. We didn’t (last night). But their goalie played really well, he was really composed and I was impressed at the end when we were throwing pucks from everywhere at him.”
Lake Superior goaltender Mareks Mitens made 31 saves for the shutout victory.
Both teams played cleaner defensively, tightening up after the teams combined for nine total goals on Saturday. The tighter defense was evident on the penalty kill. Saturday night Merrimack and the Lakers combined to go 5 for 8 on the power play, and on Sunday in the finale, the teams went a combined 0 for 10.
“Both teams might have also been a little tired,” Borek said. “It’s back-to-back games the first weekend of the season. The real difference was (Lake Superior State) played more defense tonight than last night. We could have had more chances if we carried the puck over the line with numbers (like Saturday), but tonight they had five guys back most of the night and played defense most of the game. They didn’t have many scoring chances but they played defense hard. We weren’t able to get inside that. It’s a lot of work to play against that, and we didn’t do it early, but we did late.”
Warriors looking to learn the art of the ‘W’
Like most young teams, Borek is hoping the Warriors quickly learn to win. It’s a belief, more than anything else.
“The biggest thing I learned (this weekend) is that learning to win will be a challenge,” he said. “We need to learn how to win fast, because that will be a problem moving forward if we don’t. We had an opportunity to win both of these games, but I’m not sure we believed we would win. For a team that hasn’t won a lot, that’s sometimes the case. We need to find a way to coach that if it’s possible.”
Seyfert, Gresock see time at 6-on-5
Two freshmen were on the ice for the Warriors in the most critical point in the game. With goaltender Craig Pantano on the bench for the extra attacker with 1:47 left in the third period, Borek opted to run Jordan Seyfert and Chase Gresock over the boards.
Seyfert won two USHL Champions (with two different organizations) the last two seasons and Gresock was one of the top scorers in the USHL last year for the Youngstown Phantoms.
“They’re both good players and both have a history of scoring,” Borek said. “That’s the biggest thing. You don’t start scoring in college. You usually have a history of scoring before you got here. That’s important and I thought it was important to get them out there in that situation.”
Pants a perfect fit
Craig Pantano was back in the crease for the Warriors on Sunday, making 23 saves in the first start of his senior season. Pantano was Merrimack’s best goaltender last season, posting a .915 save percentage in 27 starts.
Pantano made several key stops to keep the game a 1-0 deficit, including a sliding post-to-post save on Max Humitz in the third period.
“He was really good,” said Borek. “That’s a hard game for a goalie. You’re not busy for a long time and then there’s a great Grade-A chance against you. I was really impressed with Craig’s composure and he made us a better team in front of him because of how settled he was.”
Lake Superior State 1, Merrimack 0 at Lawler Arena Lake Superior State (2-0-0): 0-1-0—1 Merrimack College (0-2-0): 0-0-0—0 1st Period Scoring - None Penalties - Collin Saccoman, LSS (Hitting from Behind) 7:10; Cole McBride, MER (Hitting from Behind) 10:14; Anthony Nellis, LSS (Elbowing) 12:24; Michael Babcock, MER (Interference) 17:12 2nd Period Scoring - 1, LSS Max Humitz/2 (Brayden Gelsinger/1) 0:37 (GW) Penalties - Simon Lööf, MER (Kneeing) 4:12; Tyler Anderson, LSS (Charging) 6:58; Steven Ruggiero, LSS (Cross-Checking) 11:23; Jordan Seyfert, MER (Slashing) 15:01; Pierre-Luc Veillette, LSS (Hooking) 15:46 3rd Period Scoring - None Penalties - Anthony Nellis, LSS (Tripping) 0:58 Lake Superior State Goaltending - Mareks Mitens (60:00, 31 shots, 31 saves, 0 GA) Merrimack Goaltending - Craig Pantano (58:13, 24 shots, 23 saves, 1 GA); Empty Net (1:47, 0 GA) Win - Mareks Mitens, LSS (1-0-0). Loss - Craig Pantano, MER (0-1-0). Shots On Goal - LSS 10-6-8=24; MER 6-11-14=31 Power Plays - LSS 0 of 4; MER 0 of 6 Penalties - LSS 6 (12 min); MER 4 (8 min) Three Stars: 1. Mareks Mitens (Lake Superior State) 2. Max Humitz (Lake Superior State) 3. Johnathan Kovacevic (Merrimack)