NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack’s possession numbers were off the charts in an opening-night loss against Colgate at Class of 1965 Arena. Despite the 2-1 score, the Warriors outshot the raiders 39-19 and out-attempted them 74-38.
Shot attempts in the third period were a whopping 26-3 in favor of Merrimack in the third period. Colgate barely sniffed the offensive zone.
Possession metrics usually tell the story of a hockey game, but Friday night was proof that even teams who control most of the game’s puck possession can find themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard if execution isn’t sharp enough.
“We dominated the second and most of the third,” said junior forward Ludvig Larsson, who scored for the Warriors. “We played with a lot of speed. We want to get the puck deep and get on their Ds on the dump and I think we did that. We want to play hard, but I think we can play even harder. We have to. We need to win more puck battles.
“I thought we were faster. Sadly, we just couldnt execute enough chances.”
Merrimack had plenty of chances. Alex Carle hit the post on a shot from the point in the third period. Jace Hennig and Sami Tavernier had chances with Colgate goalie Colton Point (38 saves) out of position, but the play was either broken up at the last second by a Colgate defender or in the case of Tavernier, a bouncing puck on a rebound hopped over his stick.
Despite dominating possession, Dennehy said he wants to see his team get even more pucks to the net on Saturday.
At even strength, the Warriors outshot Colgate 28-14 and out-attempted the Raiders 56-24.
“You look at the game, and you look at how many opportunities we had, and you look at time of possession and you asked yourself if we played well enough?” Dennehy said. “I thought we passed up some opportunities to shoot the puck, but when you assess the game, I thought we played well enough to come up with at least a point.”
Power Play Generates Chances
Merrimack’s power play failed to convert on its five opportunities, but aside from a first-period power play where the Warriors had some trouble with zone entry, Merrimack was generated opportunities with a man-up.
On the Warriors’ second power play of the game, Colgate failed to clear the puck once, with the Warriors possessing for two straight minutes in the offensive zone. The play was only able to stop twice when Colton Point covered the puck for a whistle. The Warriors generated six shots on that power play alone.
“I thought we had good possession,” Dennehy said. “We had some ideas but I don’t think we got enough to the net. We were too cute at times. We were trying to simplify things on the power play and we need to continue to simplify it. We had good looks but the objective is to get the puck on net and score. We need to be strong rebounds and outnumber them in front of the net.”
Merrimack made an adjustment on the breakout after a sluggish opening few minutes where the Raiders found ways to breakup the Warriors zone entry in the netural zone.
“We weren’t great in the middle of the rink in the first period,” Dennehy said. “They had dumps where they generated speed and got on us. Then, they took the walls away with their D and we kept trying to shove it up the walls. But we got better with it as the game went on.”
Colgate Looks to Improve
Colgate head coach Don Vaughn was happy with his team’s start, but admitted there was plenty of things to work on for the Raiders after not closing out the game the way he would have liked.
“Somebody once said to me, ‘They don’t ask you how, they only ask you how many?’ but we need to be better,” Vaughn said. “Colton was really good tonight, again. We had a good start, which is something we didn’t have last week, but we didn’t finish as well as we did last week. It’s hard to win, we found a way to win tonight but certainly a lot of things we need to work on.
“We’ve got to tighten things up defensively and limit the turnovers but when we did, what I was proud of was that we bent but didn’t break and that’s a good attitude to have for a young team. There was no panic and sometimes with a young team panic sets in, especially after they scored that goal, but our guys settled down.”
Vogler Sharp in Opener
Drew Vogler made 17 saves for Merrimack making his second straight opening-night start.
“He made some nice saves,” Dennehys said. “When you’re chasing and you’re down, you can give up some odd-man rushes and they had some chances. He did a good job on those.”
Quote to Note
Ludvig Larsson on his third-period goal: “The team always gets pumped on a goal. We were playing well and it felt like we had them after that. We all thought we were going to get the next one.”
— Merrimack had the most shots on goal in a season opener in 14 years; the last time the Warriors piled up more shots in their first game of the regular season was a 4-2 win against Sacred Heart on Oct. 10, 2003 (44 shots).
— 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.
— Merrimack has dropped its last two season openers and is 5-5-1 in its last 11 season openers.