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Takeaways: Merrimack holds league’s best offense in check

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NORTH ANDOVER — Northeastern is the top offense in Hockey East, entering Saturday’s game averaging more than 3.5 goals per game. Merrimack, while allowing 33 shots on goal, held the Huskies to just the one goal in a 1-1 tie on Saturday.

Not to mention, the Huskies one goal was on a batted puck off the end boards. It was a really nice play by Adam Gaudette — not many other players have the hand-eye coordination to make it happen — but there was also an element of “luck” there as well.

Craig Pantano made 32 saves, but other than a handful, it never felt like the Huskies were threatening. Now, the same could be said for the Warriors. The 1-1 tie felt like a 1-1 tie, with little offense to speak of on either side.

Overall, the Warriors played well from the start, and also played better with the lead, despite Northeastern getting back into the game with the tying goal.

Truthfully, that’s the game that Merrimack wants to play. Not necessarily as quiet as this game was in terms of offense, but Merrimack forcing Northeastern to dump pucks or drive to the outside (and stay there) in the offensive zone are good signs. I can only think of a handful of times where Northeastern charged over the blue line with numbers, and one of those chances came late in the third period. Neither team allowed much, and that was a bigger victory for the Warriors, considering Northeastern’s firepower.

Adam Gaudette had 10 of Northeastern’s 60 shot attempts, and he’s going to be a hard player to stop; maybe the hardest. But the Warriors held Zach Solow to just one shot attempt and the Warriors blocked four of Dylan Sikura’s seven attempts.

Even Gaudette’s goal was almost preventable. The Warriors had a golden opportunity to clear the zone on the PK but Jeremy Davies was able to keep it in at the blue line, setting up the goal.

Merrimack big on the block

The Warriors blocked 25 percent of Northeastern’s total shot attempts (15 out of 60). Derek Petti led the team with 10 shot blocks, and the Warriors spread them out; 10 different players blocked at least one shot, and Petti, Brett Seney, Jared Kolquist and Evan Bell all blocked more than one. That block rate for the Warriors is slightly above their season average. Merrimack entered the game blocking about 20 percent of opponent shot attempts.

There were chances for even more blocks as well. Northeastern had three power plays in the game — including a goal — and the Warriors did not register and shot blocks on the penalty kill. Of the 15 blocks, 14 were at even strength and one came with the Warriors on the power play.

Larsson big on the draw

Ludvig Larsson continues to be one of the better faceoff men in Hockey East. There were 58 faceoffs in the game on Saturday, and Larsson took 25 of them (13-12).

Other individual observations …

Even single Merrimack player registered at least one shot attempt. … Only two players (Evan Bell and Jackson Bales) didn’t have a shot on goal. … Bell and Dominic Dockery were both very active in the offensive zone. There were a few times where both defensemen would find themselves deep in the attacking zone. … On Merrimack’s final power play in the third period, Jared Kolquist made a really smart play in the neutral zone, getting a high dump on Cayden Primeau that forced him to glove the puck. From there, the Warriors attacked the net well and got the whistle. It was a simple enough play, but it resulted in Merrimack calling a timeout and keeping that top power-play unit on the ice for a full two-minute stretch.

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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