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Five Takes: Warriors need more winning on the dot

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Replacing Ludvig Larsson, and his 60 percent faceoff percentage, was going to be almost an impossible task. Larsson was one of the best faceoff players in the NCAA last season and his brother Alfred, who graduated, honestly wasn’t that far behind (even if the statistics don’t show it from 2017-18, his career percentage was quite good).

So far this season, the Warriors have won 46.5 percent of their faceoffs, which is a number that needs to begin to creep up.

Overall faceoff percentage can be deceiving, I think. I’d be more concerned with who is winning critical faceoffs, but that’s not something the NCAA tracks. For example, if you are beginning a penalty kill in your defensive zone, you need to win that draw and get a clear down ice. On the contrary, if you’re on the power play you want to begin your two minutes with possession in the zone, so who is winning those faceoffs?

A faceoff after allowing or scoring a goal is important, so are faceoffs late in close games or after icing calls.

There’s no metric that tracks those specific situations, but it would be good to know. Michael Babcock (53.1%) seems to have improved on the dot over the offseason as has Patrick Kramer (56.0%). However, Merrimack has three players who have taken at least 20 faceoffs that are under 50 percent, and two of those players are under 40 percent.

2. Gresock will be a top Hockey East forward

He hasn’t scored his first collegiate goal yet, but all signs point to Chase Gresock being a featured forward in the Merrimack lineup over the next four years. Gresock has been all over the ice in his first four collegiate games, and always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time.

There was a thought, on Derek Petti’s goal last night at Army, that the goal might have been Gresock’s only because Gresock was in the right place at the right time and was also jamming at the loose puck.

Gresock leads the Warriors with 13 shots on goal — he’s tied with Sami Tavernier and Tyler Drevitch in that category — and despite Merrimack getting outscored 9-7 to start the season, Gresock finds himself with a +3 plus-minus rating.

Gresock has 27 shot attempts in four games, which is the best among all forwards (and only trails Johnathan Kovacevic by one). Tyler Irvine has the most points on the team, but I think you could argue that Gresock, and maybe Tavernier, have been Merrimack’s most consistent threats as far as providing scoring chances. Gresock’s 21 shot attempts at even strength leads the team by five.

3. Loof shows toughness

Aaron Titcomb was a stalwart shot blocker for Merrimack over his four seasons in blue and gold and finding a defenseman willing to pay that price to protect the goaltender can be difficult.

Simon Loof, on the other hand, hasn’t been known for toughness in the defensive zone. Loof is a tremendous skater who possesses the puck well and will be a valuable asset for the Warriors on the power play.

Moreover, through four games to start this season, he’s been able to help fill the gap left by Titcomb, as Loof leads the team with five shots blocked.

4. Irvine provides more than just energy

Tyler Irvine was a prototypical energy player in his first two seasons at Merrimack. The smooth-skating forward has some of the best speed on the team, and he used it to wreak havoc on the forecheck and be a pest to opponents on the penalty kill.

But he’s more than just an energy player, and that has played out over these first two weekends.

Irvine leads Merrimack in scoring with four points (2 goals, 2 assists), using his speed to generate odd-man rushes and even a breakaway. On top of that, he’s showing toughness at the net front, which is going to lead to even more scoring opportunities for the junior.

With so many scorers having graduated or transferred last season, it was critical for some upperclassmen to fill that gap in scoring, and Irvine has provided that.

5. Merrimack needs ice after a rough weekend

Man … I thought Hockey East officiating was bad.

Merrimack lost Dominic Dockery to injury on Friday night at Bentley and nearly lost Logan Coomes and Cole McBride on similar runs up against the boards. Then on Saturday night at West Point, both Tyler and Logan Drevitch were victims of borderline hits.

Of those five instances … one penalty was called. And, it wasn’t even for the hit. Bentley’s Luke Santerno was called for facemasking after Sami Tavernier charged him following a blatant elbow to the head of McBride.

What made the Santerno non-call even worse was that it happened directly in front of an official. The puck was in the corner and an official was watching the play unfold. Santerno came up high on McBride, and almost every player on the ice stopped, assuming a whistle was about to come, but there was silence from the officials. That’s when Tavernier took matters into his own hands to protect his teammate.

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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