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Mike, love your stuff. What do you make of Merrimack going on a run of recruiting in Ontario? Foget, Seney, Bales and now McKay. Should we be concerned that they’re getting away from the BCHL?
These things are very cyclical. For a stretch of time, the BCHL was the hot place to be. But looking back, from Merrimack’s perspective, was it really profitable as a recruiting ground? Merrimack recruited a lot of players out of the BCHL, and a portion of those players either didn’t work out as well as they were projected, or didn’t show up at all. Tyler Morley, Brandon Morley, Wade Murphy and now Austin Plevy are four players, just off the top of my head, that I recall de-committing, and they were all out of the BCHL (Plevy was traded to the AJHL last season). So if there are some reservations to going back there for players, I think it’s warranted.
About 15 years ago, Ontario was a hotbed. It never really stopped being one, either. Merrimack went to Ontario to recruit players like Matt Foy and Marco Rosa, but for a stretch they weren’t going back there. In my opinion, it’s probably because there was a lot of competition there. It was harder to get the best players. But more recently they’ve recruited Brett Seney, who is clearly having a great freshman season, and Mathieu Foget is projected to be just as good. Ontario is always going to be a breeding ground of hockey players.
Why is a player like (Ludvig) Larsson in the NAHL and not the USHL? Same for (Alex) Carle? Aren’t those players good enough for the USHL? If they’re not, how will they be good enough for Hockey East? Couldn’t Carle go to another USHL team if Youngstown didn’t want him?
If it weren’t for some off-the-ice circumstances, both would be in the USHL. Larsson was hurt (I believe) for a good portion of Youngstown’s camp and the Phantoms took a player who was healthy throughout the camp and Larsson went to the NAHL. For Carle, it was similar. He was hurt almost all of last season and the first half of this season after having surgery, so when he was healthy last month and ready to come back, Youngstown had no room on its roster and he found a home in the NAHL. He couldn’t go to another USHL team, his rights were owned by Youngstown.
Mike, I’m baffled why this team isn’t winning more. It seems that it dropped off after Christmas. What do you see as being the No. 1 reason why?
I don’t think it’s just one reason. It’s a combination of factors. Let’s first look at offensively. I don’t believe the Warriors are shooting the puck enough. There are times where it seems there’s an extra pass being forced, or just too much time looking for a pass that isn’t there, and a shooting lane closes. They went from out-shooting opponents in most games to getting outshot in most games in the second half.
That trend has started to change since a very lucky 2-1 win over Lowell on Jan. 27. Merrimack’s CF% (percentage of shot attempts at even strength) has been above 50 percent in every game since then, including a CF% of 66.67% in two out of the last four games, in losses to Boston College and in Saturday’s loss to Maine.
That’s a positive sign. But still, it seems there are times where they are passing up opportunities to shoot the puck.
On the flip side, defensively, there have been real issues. Merrimack has allowed four goals or more in six of its last eight games. The Warriors allowed four goals or more in just two of the first 22 games. The team save percentage over that stretch is .900, as compared to .921 for the season. That’s a huge drop. It’s also not all on the goaltender. Save percentage can be attributed to a number of factors, most chiefly being shot quality, and the net-front has been a big issue. You can also look at block percentage, which is just around 17% for Merrimack the past eight games as opposed to 22% on the season. So more shot attempts are getting through to the goaltenders, which is also evident in SOG%, which is 57% against Merrimack during this stretch, and 53% for the season. Opponent block percentage is up two percentage points to 24% during this stretch and Merrimack’s SOG% is down three points. Battles in front.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN