FOXBORO — Both coaches said leading up to Sunday’s national title game that faceoffs would be an important factor.
Limestone’s Keivn Reisman is one of the best in the nation, and Merrimack’s Blake Boudreau is an All-American who is one of the best in the region.
Earlier this season, they dueled, with Reisman winning 19 and Boudreau 13 in a win for the Warriors in April.
On Sunday, Limestone beat Merrimack 11-9 in the national championship game at Gillette Stadium, with Reisman winning 17 of 24 faceoffs.
“It’s hard to come back and it’s hard to build momentum, when we’re usually the team that’s getting two, three, four wins in a row and it helps us get our offense going and keeps some pressure off the D,” said Merrimack head coach Mike Morgan. “It’s certainly a momentum shifter when a kid plays like that”
The Warriors tried multiple different angles on Reisman, including putting three long-stick middies on the faceoff, but the senior was rarely stopped.
“Last time we played them I didn’t really watch that much film,” said Reisman. “I didn’t really know what their wings were going to do, and my wing play was stout like it was in the semifinal against Tampa. They were picking up GBs that I wasn’t picking up, so it was awesome.”
In the third quarter, Reisman won seven straight faceoffs as the Saints exploded for five goals, including three in a 17-seconds span.
“With Kevin, the team spends so much time and energy focusing on Kevin, and they put three long-stick middies out there at one time today,” said Limestone coach J.B. Clarke. “I don’t know if they did it a bunch, but he did a great job this year of working harder with the wing guys and allowing them to help him more than they have in the past. In the past, he’s been more focused on him getting the ball, and this year he did a really, really good job of allowing the wing guys to help him more.”
Morgan walked into the post-game press conference with seniors Tim Towler, Tom McLaughlin and Max Allen.
One of the first things he said was how much that trio meant to his program this year, and what their contributions could set up for the future.
“These guys, especially these three next to me, we talked in the locker room about how they won’t appreciate it now,” Morgan said. “Obviously, we were here to win this. We weren’t here to just show up. But what they did for our program and where they took us and obviously, this being a major step moving forward is something that I’m certainly very proud of these guys and of the group in general.”
Merrimack Banged Up
The Warriors lost starting defender Ryan Burke just six seconds into the game, when he went down with an apparent knee injury. He was seen on the sidelines during the game on crutches.
A few minutes later, superstar freshman Charlie Bertrand was hit high, and from behind, and was also forced to leave the game. Bertrand would return, but didn’t look himself.
“Ryan Burke is a great player, and he’s been starting for us about half the year now,” said Morgan. “It hurts losing a defenseman but it also hurts losing a defenseman who I believe matches up with them real well. He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s strong. They’ve got some big kids at midfield and attack, and (Brennan) Morin, this is his first game back in a few and he was hobbled. So, the two guys I think we really needed to help us this game were both not healthy. Does that change the outcome? Maybe, maybe not, but it was certainly something that they navigated the rest of the game pretty tough, because you’re moving guys around and the match-ups aren’t what you thought they’d be. But in general give credit to (Limestone) and their offense. But yeah, it definitely hurt and made the adjustments a lot tougher.”
Merrimack senior Tom McLaughlin on Limestone’s breakout second half offensively …
“In the second half it mostly was the transition opportunities that became our problems. We weren’t really getting in, and we weren’t talking enough defensively, I think, and that kind of led to some breakdowns. I thought we had some pretty good looks. It’s hard for any goalie to make those saves, and that’s pretty much — just a lack of communication, I think. It was kind of loud in there, and that definitely factored a little bit, but we should have been a little louder. We weren’t really all on the same page defensively in the second half, and that led to some goals. ”
Merrimack senior Tim Towler on the 17-second span where Limestone score three goals in the third quarter …
“I mean, we just couldn’t win a face-off. Their face-off guy really played well. I don’t know, kind of pushed the momentum towards them. I feel like we kind of stopped them for a second, but then we just couldn’t hang on. Kind of had a little momentum in the last couple of minutes of the game. But like I said, their face-off guy is a good player.”
Merrimack coach Mike Morgan on what Limestone did well, and what went wrong, in the second half …
“I think that was one of the things – we got stops, but we got to pick the ball up. I thought we did a really good job backing up the end line today, which is something I think is the first time ever said in a press conference, but I think we had like six of them that we beat to the end line. And that’s an effort play, and our guys did a good job, but you can’t let a team like that get those long possessions and grind you. Like we said, when you’re not winning the face offs, that D is taxed like crazy and then you probably push a little bit on offense and take some shots. Their goalie played great, too. I think the first time around we shot real well against them and he made some key saves in key moments, and I think those closed the gaps. We hit them, but like I say, if you’re playing deep that long, it’s hard to consistently get stops on those guys. That’s why they’re one of the best if not the best offense in the country.”