HAMILTON, N.Y. — The Merrimack power play struggled for most of the first half last season, before turning things around in the last 12 games of the regular season, converting at a rate of about 20 percent.
Through two games this year, the Warriors power play is again having some issues, and the problems Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy points out are similar to the issues he felt the unit had a year ago at this time.
“Maybe I’m talking too much about time of possession, because you’re supposed to have possession on the power play but that’s not the goal, the goal is to score goals and get pucks to the net,” Dennehy said. “We’re very cutesy with it. We’ve tried to simplify it. The next step is just personnel changes and we’ll put out people who are going to do what we need them to do. Possessing the puck on the outside and not getting pucks to the net, you’re not going to score goals that way.”
The Warriors did score a power-play goal off the stick of Sami Tavernier, but the Warriors had plenty of chances to bury more. Merrimack had two five-minute major power plays, one of which had two minutes negated by a Merrimack penalty.
There was one two-minute power play in the second period where Merrimack didn’t register a single shot on goal.
“Sami’s goal, as nice as it was, that’s an incredibly hard goal,” said Dennehy. “You might score on one of 30 of those. But those are the ones we keep trying for instead of getting greasy goals. It needs to be a lot better.”
Dennehy mentioned the possibility of some personnel changes on the power play, and there were some personnel changes in Game 2. On Friday night, both power-play units had four forwards and one defenseman. That was still the case for the Warriors’ second unit, but the top unit on Saturday had Derek Petti moved back to center (from the point) and Alfred Larsson was on the bench in favor of defenseman Jared Kolquist.
“Statistically power-play units with four forwards score more goals than the traditional 3-2 units,” Dennehy said. “But, we weren’t getting enough out of it. Jared plays with a lot of poise. It isn’t where it needs to be so we keep working on it and trying different things.”
Faceoff Numbers Improve, New Emphasis Results in Penalty
Alfred Larsson was called for a “faceoff infraction” with 5.6 seconds left in regulation, which put Colgate on a 1:56 5-on-3 to start the overtime. Larsson was apparently called for putting his hand on the puck during a mad scrum following the puck drop.
“We go down 5-on-3 after a too-many-men penalty and then a penalty where we supposedly put our hand on the puck on the faceoff,” Dennehy said. “I don’t know how anyone could have seen it, there were five guys on top of Alfie.
“I thought the 5-on-3 was the best two minutes of the game for us. “That was really the only time we did what we needed to do. We competed. We had big faceoff wins because we were digging in. Maybe it’s just because of the guys we had on the ice. At that point, we have the guys on the ice who want to compete and win battles. Those guys did the job.”
An emphasis this season from the NCAA is to cut down on interference and delays on the faceoff circle. But for the most part, things were let go all weekend until 5.6 seconds left in Saturday’s third period.
However, Dennehy said he felt the officials were consistent with the new emphasis all weekend.
“I thought that the referees were excellent and I told them that,” Dennehy said. “They were consistent, which as a coach is all we’re looking for. This weekend was a wrestling match on faceoffs. If that’s the standard, then that’s the standard. That’s not the video that I watched, though. The NCAA sends out a video and that’s not the video that I watched. I give them credit, it was consistent all weekend and I told them that they did a good job. But if that’s how the ECAC wants to ref it, then it’s good to know.”
Quote to Note
“That was a 10-bell save,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said of a stop Drew Vogler made with 6:00 left. “That was a tough save at a big point in the game.”
— Merrimack’s all-time mark against Colgate moved to 10-8-3 after Saturday’s tie. Friday’s loss snapped a five-game unbeaten streak against Colgate (3-0-2) dating back nearly 20 years; the Raiders’ last win in the series was on Nov. 27, 1999, in an in-season tournament hosted by Syracuse.
— Derek Petti has scored goals in five of his last nine games dating back to last season.