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Notebook: Merrimack Looks to Speed Things Up

As a new season begins, Merrimack hopes to play faster on the attack …

Photo: Merrimack Athletics

NORTH ANDOVER — If you watched Merrimack’s Blue-Gold scrimmage last Saturday, you likely came away with the thought that the Warriors looked faster.

It wasn’t all foot speed, either. The Warriors pushed the pace, and the puck, up the ice more quickly and the result was a game that had more fluidity and offense.

“We’re fast and we thin that we can play fast,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “We are a dangerous team when we get numbers on the rush. We still want to be strong in some situation play, and we need to take care of the puck in the offensive zone, because we want to force the other team to defend. I thought we played fast (last Saturday) and that’s hard to do with two lines and only four or five D on each team.”

Playing fast starts in the defensive zone, when the Warriors regain possession and look to move the puck up ice.

“It all starts there,” Dennehy said. “Look at Lowell, they generate more offense off of D-zone transition than any team in our league. We want to get there. We also need to be quicker in the middle of the rink. At times, we have been too deliberate in the middle of the rink. We have gained and maintained possession, but we need to push the pace more. We need to pass it by people.

“You can’t control the results, as much as you’d like to. You can control your effort and your attention to detail and preparedness. We want to attack. We want to play fast. It’s Game 1, so execution will be sloppy for sure, but effort and hard work can make up for that. You need second, third, fourth attempts at pucks to make up for some lack of execution. Are we willing to do that?”

Looking Back To Last Year

Merrimack swept Colgate in a weekend series at Merrimack last fall, but Dennehy said there’s little reason to believe that success will just automatically carry over.

Colgate graduated a good chunk of seniors, but also return a sizable junior and sophomore class.

“You are never as good or as bad as you thought you were,” he said, looking back at last year’s video. “You look at the results and you think we were pretty good that weekend, but it was just a couple of plays in both games, and a little bit of fortuitousness. Those games last year, we won them, but they were highly contesting. You want to be able to take some confidence from those wins, but we also can’t kid ourselves. It was a bounce of a puck both nights and we were sloppy at times in those games.”

Experience is Key

With so much of last year’s roster returning — the Warriors lost Hampus Gustafsson, Chris LeBlanc Jonathan Lashyn and Collin Delia — there’s a belief that they’ve been able to hit the ground running, sort to speak, in preseason camp.

Hours are restricted in the early portions of preseason, with coaches only allowed on the ice for two hours per week under NCAA rules. Practices opened in full last Saturday.

“You would like to think having so much experience back will help us,” Dennehy said. “A lot of my peers bemoan the two hour rule, and they’re looking for more time. But we’re experienced. We could play Friday night and not play well, but it won’t be because we don’t know where we’re supposed to be. We’ve had a good fall, our guys have worked hard and they’re prepared.

“With so many experienced guys, we’ll see how it goes, but it’s possible our practices might not be as long this year. As long as we execute and we’re sharp, we might only go 45 minutes or an hour every day. We have older guys and there is an understanding of what we need to do. We don’t need to kill them in practice if we’re executing well. That’s definitely an advantage.”

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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