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10 takeaways from Merrimack’s 5-2 win over UConn

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NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack beat UConn, 5-2, on Saturday night at Lawler Arena. The win moved Merrimack into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in Hockey East with Maine and it pushed the Warriors three points ahead of UConn in the standings.

Exclusively for TMR VIP members, here are 10 takeaways from the Warriors’ win on Saturday night …

1) Chase Gresock is starting to heat up, which we thought he might when he was leading the team in shots at the beginning of the year but had a low shooting percentage. Now Gresock’s shots are starting to fall and he has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in the last three games. Here’s a prediction … Gresock will finish the season as Merrimack’s leading scorer.

2) Another player that has been waiting to get rewarded is August Von Ungern-Sternberg. His third-period goal was a big goal that stopped UConn’s momentum and gave the Warriors some necessary breathing room for the final eight minutes. That goal took the life out of UConn’s game, and Merrimack ran out the clock from there. That’s the type of goal Merrimack has struggled with in the past. They get up on a team and then all of a sudden, when the opponent pushes back, the Warriors have trouble stopping that momentum. Von Ungern-Sternberg’s goal stopped UConn’s momentum dead in its tracks.

3) On UConn’s second goal the officials were reviewing whether or not the puck left the zone before the Huskies kept it in and found the net. From the angle we had on the replay, I thought the officials had the call correct. The puck was shielded by the UConn defender who was attempting to keep the puck in the zone, but it looked like it hit the blue line but never completely crossed it. On the other review — Von Ungern-Sternberg’s goal — I have no earthly idea what the officials were reviewing. It was a single puck carrier crossing the line alone. They kept looking at the front of Huska’s net, so maybe they were looking at contact on Huska as Von Ungern-Sterbnerg cut across the crease? Tyler Irvine played the puck in the air and I thought they were looking for a high stick on that play, but the officials never looked at that angle.

4) Merrimack was very physical with UConn outside of the dots in the defensive zone, which didn’t allow the Huskies to get to the house near Craig Pantano’s net. UConn, even when they were pressuring in the third period, had very few second chances.

5) Merrimack’s second line has some serious speed. Tyler Irvine, Michael Babcock and Von Ungern-Sternberg continue to create chances for themselves. Much like Gresock individually earlier in the year, this trio is doing so many good things it’s hard to believe they won’t start getting rewarded. Tonight, Babcock and Von Ungern-Sternberg had goals and Tyler Irvine nearly scored on a breakaway that he created for himself with puck pressure on the forecheck.

6) Patrick Kramer was as physical tonight as I can remember seeing him. The same goes for Cole McBride, who was playing with more of an edge to his game. Kramer was also willing to get bounced around if it meant getting to a good area on the ice. Kramer nearly scored on a tip in the first period.

7) You can’t just go to Target and buy confidence for a team. Confidence is earned through preparation. It’s also earned through success and because of the recent success, we’re beginning to see the Warriors play with more confidence. That’s resulted in more goals, in part because the Warriors aren’t afraid to make plays. The first two goals of the game were a prime example of that. Scott Borek said it after the game, and I’d agree, I’m not sure the Warriors would have had the confidence to move the puck the way they did on those first two goals earlier in the season.

8) I have to admit, watching a Hockey East game with just four total power plays felt weird. The league has become known for penalty parades in recent years. Last year games averaged 11 power plays per game. 11! That’s ridiculous. For the most part last night the officials let the teams play hockey and we went long stretches without whistles. The flow was slowed down due to some penalty and goal reviews, but aside from that the hockey players were allowed to play a hockey game, which was refreshing.

9) Borek said in the pregame that the Warriors would stick with a goalie rotation for the time being, with both Pantano and Drew Vogler playing well. He already announced that Vogler will start next weekend against UNH. It’s the right call given how the season has played out. Once the schedule gets more intense starting with the last week of January, the goalies can know and prepare for one game. There will be less mystery and knowing a set schedule I think helps a players psyche.

10) I still believe Adam Huska is a pretty good goalie. His stats aren’t good, but Huska was hung out to dry on a few of those goals last night. The first three goals especially, the UConn players in front of him allowed a pair of 2-on-1s for the Warriors, and then Petti’s goal they peeled off of the puck carrier and Petti had all the time in the world to pick his spot on the shot. On the fifth goal, Von Ungern-Sternberg outworked the UConn defender and won a race and the Huskies were outworked on the fourth goal as well. None of the five goals were soft.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th 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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