Discover more from The Mack Report
Defensive struggles continue to haunt Merrimack in last-second loss to UConn
NORTH ANDOVER — Offensive shortcomings often can't be fixed. Players either have the ability to score goals, or they don't.
Defensive shortcomings often can be fixed.
That's the good news for Merrimack following Saturday's 4-3 loss to UConn. The Warriors managed to split the weekend series with the Huskies after they won Friday's game 6-3.
After battling back from two goals down to tie the game 3-3, UConn’s Andrew Lucas scored with 48.1 seconds left in regulation to give the Huskies the win.
"They took it to us at certain points in the game and we survived it," Scott Borek said. "They were heavier than we were at the end of the game. We just couldn't survive the last time."
It's been an issue for the last three games. Merrimack has allowed 12 goals (4 per game) since last Saturday's 5-4 loss to Maine. Before that, Merrimack had only allowed more than two goals once in six games.
"Last year, we were a very good defensive team with many of the same players," Borek said. "We need to dial in more defensively. We need to be more simple coming out of the zone.
"We're hungry for the puck and I like that we're hungry for the puck, but when the other team has it, we have to play positionally and structured and we lost that today a little bit."
Of course, these struggles have lined up at a time when Ivan Zivlak and Mike Brown — two of Merrimack's best defenders in the D zone — are out with injuries.
"It makes it more difficult," Borek said. "But the positive part is we have a lot of guys getting great experience. When those guys come back, we'll be a much better team. We're young back on D right now, for sure. It's tough to do against teams in our league, beacuse everyone in our league is a big challenge, but we'll be deeper with Brownie and Ivan come back."
Wattvil, Djurasevic score their first goals
Speaking of younger defensemen, freshmen Max Wattvil and Frank Djurasevic scored their first collegiate goals on Saturday.
Djurasevic's goal came just over a week after his mother, Adine Djurasevic, passed away unexpectedly. The entire Merrimack team traveled to New York this week to attend her services.
"I am amazed by Frankie," Borek said. "I'm not sure I could do the same thing in that situation. He knew his team needed him, but I think he needed his team, too. I'm really happy for him, I'm happy that he's back and we have to dial in and make sure we're helping him. I thought he played really well."
Wattvil was one of the defensemen who may not have been in the lineup if the Warriors were fully healthy on D.
"He was outstanding on Friday and he was god tonight," Borek said. "He didn't have a lot of confidece when the season started and I think it made him look like he was a long way away (from playing). He has made a huge jump. I'm excited for his future because he's a great kid, he's great in our locker room."
Brar finds the net
It wasn't the first of his career, but graduate captain Ben Brar scored his first goal of the season in the first period.
"He's been pressing I think," Borek said. "He's had some great chances. He's our leader. It was nice to see him get it. I'm not sure if he'd say it, but I think it was bugging him a little bit. He has every other part of his game going, so it was good to see him get on the board."
GAME NOTES: Matt Coppponi extended his point streak to eight games and Zach Bookman extended his point streak to seven games. ... Merrimack wore their third jerseys (gold). ... The Warriors went 24-35 on faceoffs.
NEXT: Merrimack will host UMass Lowell on Wednesday night at Lawler Arena.
UConn 5, Merrimack 4 at Lawler Arena Merrimack (4-4-0-1): 2-1-1—4 Connecticut (5-6-0-1): 1-2-0—3 First Period: 1. MC Ben Brar 1 (Matt Copponi, Zach Bookman), pp, 4:40; 2. UC Nick Capone 1 (Ryan Mahshie, John Spetz), pp, 8:28; 3. UC Jake Richard 3 (Samu Salminen, Matthew Wood), pp, 11:40. Second Period: 4. UC Ryan Mahshie 2 (Nick Capone, Owen Simpson), ev, 126; 5. MC Max Wattvil 1 (unassisted), 4:36; 6. MC Frank Djurasevic 1 (Zach Bookman, Alex Jefferies), ev, 10:21. Third Period: 9. UC Andrew Lucas 4 (Jake Percival), ev, 19:12. Shots: MC 12-14-9--35; UC 10-9-10--29 Saves: MC Borgiel (59:29) 25/29; UC Haider (59:23) 32/35 Power Play: MC 1 for 4; UC 2 for 4 Penalties: MC 4-8:00; UC 4-8:00 Attendance: 2,432