NORTH ANDOVER — When the Merrimack men’s hockey team hosts New Hampshire on Friday night at Lawler Arena, the Warriors will be without several key players.
Merrimack head coach Scott Borek said on Thursday that sophomore winger Chase Gresock will likely miss the game with the same injury that kept him out of the lineup the last two weekends. Liam Walsh is also banged up, and likely won’t play, and neither will Mac Welsher, who suffered a lower-body injury against RIT on Saturday night. These injuries are piling all while the Warriors are still waiting to hear on the fates of Patrick Holway and Filip Forsmark from the NCAA; Holway is out while his transfer waiver is pending and Forsmark has an undisclosed issue that has kept him off the ice while the NCAA examines his eligibility.
“Obviously we wish that all of those guys were in the lineup,” said Borek. “We’ll have some guys who get moved up into spots, and hopefully they’re ready for that. I think this situation will lead to positive growth down the road.
“Gresock is probably a week away. Walsh I think we’ll get back against UConn (next week) and Welsher we’re not sure yet.”
Lines have been shuffled in practice this week. Ben Brar is taking Welsher’s spot on his line and Joey Cassetti will fill the spot previously occupied by Walsh. With Regan Kimens skating on the top line, replacing Gresock, it’s expected that Ryan Nolan will skate in Kimens’ usual spot on Friday.
Borek said that defensemen Dominic Dockery and Zach Vinnell are also battling injuries, but he expects they’ll be able to play on Friday.
“We just need to focus on playing more consistent hockey, especially without the puck,” Borek said. “Our play with the puck has been good, but our play without the puck needs to be more consistent. We can’t worry about who is or isn’t in the lineup, we need to focus on playing better, particularly without the puck. We have been very good with the puck, and very average without it.”
Borek said the Warriors need to especially take care of the puck against a UNH team that traditionally is good in transition. The Wildcats are 1-1-1 on the season.
“It’s a typical UNH team we’ll see,” Borek said. “They have a lot of skill and very skilled sticks. They take care of the puck and don’t turn it over. We need to make them play 200 feet. They’re not as effective in that kind of game. If we allow them to make the ice short and attack in transition, that’s a problem.”
Borek also hopes the Warriors can improve their play at both net-fronts.
“We didn’t get greasy enough at the nets against RIT,” he said. “Holy Cross didn’t force us to play that type of game, but RIT did and we weren’t greasy enough in those spots. We need to play a lot fiercer at both ends at the net.”
Troy Kobryn has started two straight games, including making 34 saves in a win over Holy Cross last Thursday. After the loss at RIT on Saturday, Borek said that while nothing has been set in stone, they’re leaning towards giving Jere Huhtamaa another start on Friday.
“Troy competes and he’s very thorough,” Borek said. “Jere has looked like a rockstar in practice. He has seized up in the two games he’s played, but we think he can be a rockstar for us. He needs another chance to find his game.”
Merrimack and UNH drop the puck on Friday night at 7 p.m. inside Lawler Arena.