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With recruiting happening so far in advance nowadays, is next year’s MC roster set or is there still room for surprises (e.g. New player commitments)?
There’s always room. A common misconception has to do with roster size and scholarship limits. Basically, each school has 18 scholarships they can award. They can award them in any way they want. So essentially you could have 36 players on half scholarships, etc. More often than not, it’s something like a “2-for-4” offer, where the player pays the first two years, and then goes free the last two years.
So to answer your question, they can always add someone. If there’s money available it becomes easier, but if they offer someone 2-for-4, even without money available for next season, they could make it work.
Any potential blue chip players expected for next year?
Austin Plevy is a highly-touted junior player. A lot of school, has been in a leadership role and seems to possess everything you want in a top-6 forward. I can’t recall off the top of my head, but either on the fall or winter list (I believe winter) he was ranked by NHL Central Scouting for June’s NHL Draft. Hampus Gustafsson is another player who comes in with some pedigree. He’s John Gustafsson’s brother. On defense, Jonathan Lashyn reminds me a lot of Karl Stollery and Craig Wyszomirski is a very good player who is technically a transfer from Providence.
Do you think the scoring drought at the end of last year represents the “real” MC offense or was it an ill-timed aberration? My fear at the start of last season was a lack of scoring punch, and it finally reared its ugly head at the worst possible time. Where are they going to find goals next year?
They were streaky, no question. The stretch of hockey where they played their best, from January to mid-February, goals were coming easy. Coming into the season, my biggest question mark for Merrimack was goal scoring. A lot of people thought it would be goaltending, but that was answered. Goaltending was never an issue. I’m not sure it was an aberration, either. It’s a tough thing to figure out. There were times when they were doing an excellent job getting bodies to the net, and others where they couldn’t sniff the crease. That’s what it comes down to. Not a lot of teams score on their initial shot on a rush. Most goals are through traffic or come off a rebound. The common theme is bodies to the net.
Which of this year’s freshmen or sophomores do you think will make the biggest leap next year?
Brian Christie is going to have a big career. He’s only going to get better. Clayton Jardine impressed me in January and February, and coming back healthy, the Warriors have to hope that he can carry some of that momentum. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they went into a bit of a tailspin after he hurt his knee at Providence. There are plenty of others, too. Justin Mansfield on defense was one of the most solid all-around defenders by the end of the year. Someone mentioned in a comment here why, when the Warriors lost to BC at home in OT, Mansfield was on the ice on D when he was a converted forward … he was there because he’s good. He was one of their better defensemen. Vinny Scotti is another player that I thought got better as the year progressed and Connor Toomey is going to have a fantastic final two seasons. He’s Brad Marchand.
Is the starting job in goal Marotta’s to lose next year, or do you think it’s going to be an all-out open competition again?
With another talented goaltender like Rasmus Tirronen on the roster, I’m sure it’s always going to be a competition. But, Marotta definitely has the edge. It’s his job to lose.
What are they going to do for a third goalie next year now that Nick Drew graduated? I don’t see one committed.
I thought I answered this at some point, but I guess not. Joe Pantalone, who served as the team’s video coordinator this past season, will be added to the roster as a goaltender. He graduated St. Augustine’s Prep in New Jersey two years ago and was stellar in the state tournament his final season, leading his team to the title game against Delbarton, a power who has placed plenty of players in the Division-1 ranks.