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Takeaways: Merrimack played like the more desperate team against Michigan

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Merrimack beat Michigan, 4-2, on Tuesday night at the Yost Ice Arena. The Warriors scored first and then scored late when Derek Petti scored in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and give the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish.

Exclusively for TMR VIP members, here are some takeaways from the Merrimack-Michigan game on Tuesday …

  • Michigan looked half asleep in the first period and the Warriors took full advantage. The shots on goal were even (14-14) after one, but Merrimack dominated play after the first 6-7 minutes. The Wolverines were without Josh Norris and Quinn Hughes, but if I were the Warriors I’d almost take that as a slight. The World Juniors ended on Saturday night, and they were conceivably back with the team on Sunday. The players who were at the WJC from BU were in the Terriers’ lineup last night against Harvard. When I saw Norris and Hughes out of the lineup, right or wrong, my first thought was that the Wolverines were holding them out because “it’s only Merrimack.”
  • Merrimack played like the desperate team on Tuesday. The Warriors dug in and blocked a season-high 18 shots. Ryan Cook led the team with four blocks and Matt McArdle had three. The shot attempts were lopsided in favor of Michigan, but the Wolverines turned up the heat in the third period after they fell behind on Derek Petti’s goal just 17 seconds into the final period. For 40 minutes, the game was even at worst, and I thought Merrimack actually had a slight edge as far as possession and flow. The Warriors definitely had the better of the scoring chances through 40 minutes, with Vogler making some big saves in the third.
  • Chase Gresock scored his second big goal in as many games, and it was almost an identical play, slicing the puck towards the net off a draw in the middle of the ice. Gresock has turned a corner and could become a big scoring factor in the second half, as we expected he would be. In the five games since Dec. 28, Gresock has three points (2 goals, 1 assist). That pace on a 34-game schedule would be 14 goals and 7 assists, which isn’t a bad freshman season. Gresock is on pace for a 20-point freshman season (8 goals, 11 assists), and if he continues to out-perform his pace from the first half, he could be a 20-24 point scorer as a rookie. Merrimack hasn’t a freshman score that many points since Brett Seney and Jace Hennig in 2014-15.
  • Two other players who are quietly performing really well since the start of the second semester are Derek Petti and Logan Coomes. Petti has three points in the five games and he also leads the team with 16 shots. Coomes doesn’t have a goal but he’s second on the team with 12 shots. That means he’s generating opportunities and the law of averages tells us those opportunities will eventually start going on. Sami Tavernier also has 12 shots in the second half but doesn’t have a point in the five games.
  • Lastly, Merrimack is getting goaltending. That’s been the biggest difference between the first half and second half thus far. And like we’ve said in the past, the goaltending numbers are reflected on an individual basis, but really it’s a team statistic. NHL statisticians are able to track shot quality because they have large staffs and everything is tracked. We’re not there yet in college hockey, so part of the weaker numbers in the first half had to do with individual performance but it also has to do with poor defensive-zone play as a team.

Here are the numbers for Drew Vogler and Craig Pantano in the first half compared to the second half …

First Half:

Vogler — 0-3, 4.98, .819
Pantano — 4-8-1, 3.38, .887

Second Half:

Vogler — 1-1, 2.13, .937
Pantano — 1-2, 2.67, .921

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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