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Mailbag: Merrimack’s playoff push? Goalie problem?

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Q. How do you see the rest of the season playing out? Over the break Merrimack obviously changed things, do you see them making a playoff push?

They absolutely have the opportunity to make a playoff push. The Warriors still have two games left with UConn, Vermont and Maine, and one game left with UNH. That’s the group the Warriors will be battling with for playoff positioning. Even though Merrimack lost out on two points to UNH on Friday night, it’s almost like they made up that ground by winning a game they weren’t “supposed” to win against Northeastern on Saturday night; most of the teams Merrimack is competing against for a playoff spot will lose to Northeastern and other top teams.

Q. I asked you this two weeks ago but here we are again (lol), does Merrimack have a goaltending problem? Two weeks ago both goalies were not playing well and now both are, who should start against UConn?

When both goaltenders were struggling I thought the Warriors would rotate the goalies until one stepped up and took the job. Now that both goalies are playing well, I think you continue to rotate them until one is clearly better than the other. Vogler started on Tuesday night, and now the Warriors had to fly back on a Wednesday before playing a league game on Saturday. It’s not a typical schedule for the team, so continuing to rotate the goalies and starting Pantano on Saturday makes sense. But, if the coaching staff feels they’ve caught lightning in a bottle with Vogler, it could be that they want to ride him between the pipes for as long as they can.

If it were up to me, like you asked, I’d continue to rotate and Pantano would start on Saturday and then Vogler would be back in net on Jan. 18 against UNH. The following weekend they would split the games at Vermont and then you reassess.

Q. What’s with all the guys leaving? Did Borek drop the ball not bringing in a defenseman now that Solow is gone too?

I think the players that left probably saw the writing on the wall. There are going to be roster moves made at the end of the year, I’ve written that in the past and I hate to keep reiterating myself, but that happens when there are coaching changes. It’s happened all over the place in college hockey, and it’s going to happen here. The three players that left the program were all probably on that bubble. Loof was in the lineup most nights but Solow and DeStefani were both in and out.

As for not bringing in a defenseman at the semester break, I don’t believe Merrimack’s in a good spot to be bringing in a defenseman recruit and blowing half a year’s worth of eligibility for a season that looks like, at best, will result in one of the final playoff positions in the conference. If Merrimack were top-five in the league right now and pushing for an NCAA tournament spot, then absolutely they should (and probably would) have brought in a defenseman in the middle of the season. But the way this season has played out, I think it’s better to protect the eligibility of the players they believe can contribute down the road.

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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