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Griebel, Stevenson, Copponi make their presence known in Merrimack's win over Clarkson
NORTH ANDOVER — On a night when Matt Copponi had an end-to-end rush worthy of a nod as a Top-10 play on ESPN's SportsCenter (it was No. 2, by the way), a play just as big came in the third period when sophomore defensemen Trevor Griebel blocked a shot from the point that sparked the Merrimack bench and helped get the Warriors over the finish line in 4-1 win over Clarkson.
"What a play by Trevor Griebel, when he was up top, their guy made three or four moves on him, and Trevor hung in the lane, blocked a shot, and that lifted the whole team," Merrimack head coach Scott Borek said. "That block gave us a lot of life and a lot of momentum for the rest of the game."
Clarkson had just come off a power play in the third period when Griebel blocked the shot. It was a nice statement from the sophomore defenseman, who missed the first three games with an injury but will be relied upon heavily this year after the graduation of Slava Demin and the news that Mike Brown is likely out until the second semester.
The Warriors only allowed 16 shots on goal and blocked 13 of Clarkson's 39 shot attempts.
"We have to do that every game," Borek said. "That's something we need to take pride in. As a group, we talked about how this is a new year, and we needed to go create our identity. Blocking shots is a big part of it.
The Warriors bounced back from two losses at Arizona State last weekend. Although Borek felt the team played well -- and the metrics say the same -- Merrimack didn't get the results it wanted.
"Getting that first win is always the hardest," Borek said. "That's a really good Clarkson team. This was a really positive night for us, and I'm really happy for our team. Everyone contributed, up and down the lineup."
"Playing with the lead and finishign it out, that was huge," added captain Ben Brar. "There were a lot of good things that came out of last weekend, obviously we didn't get the results, but we were happy with our play overall. We just needed to bear down on some scoring chances, and I think we found it today. But now we have to rest up, get in a good day of practice (Saturday) and it's right back at it Sunday."
The Warriors will play St. Lawrence at Lawler on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.).
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Early stoppage reset the Warriors
After just 90 seconds of play, the game was stopped due to an issue with the door on the Merrimack bench. Both teams went back to the locker rooms for a few minutes while the rink crew fixed the issue.
It may have been a blessing in disguise for the Warriors.
Merrimack looked flat in that opening 90 seconds but took over the game after the short delay. Copponi's goal lit the spark.
"We never played from behind today, so we were never chasing the game," Borek said. "Ironically, I thought the only time we chased the game was the first minute and 28 seconds, when they the door broke. We went back into the room and I told our guys, I thought we were on our heels. We needed to get on our toes, and I thought we played the rest of the game on our toes after that."
Stevenson scores his first ... two
Grad transfer Chase Stevenson scored his first goal as a Warrior early in the third period. Stevenson later tacked on an empty-net insurance goal in the final minute.
"It definitely gets the weight off my shoulders," he said. "It was two great plays by my linemates. I'm playing with two great players in Ben Brar and Tyler Young. We've found some chemistry, so hopefully we can keep it going."
Stevenson transferred from UNH this offseason. He was one of the top players on the Wildcats last season, finishing second on the team with 20 points, including 12 goals.
"The culture that has been developed here really made me want to come here," he said. "I wanted to go to a place where I had a chance to win. That was the biggest thing for me. I really feel like we have a group here that can do it. There were a lot of teams on the table, to be honest, but this place stood out to me right away because I know we have the talent and the culture that has been built here is a culture that wins."
Ironically, Stevenson was a game-time decision. Borek said he was questionable on Thursday, and Brady Hunter skated in pregame warmups in case Stevenson wasn't able to go.
"I'm good," Stevenson said. "Ready to go for Sunday."
Copponi’s goal in the first period was the No. 2 “Top Play” on ESPN’s SportsCenter (see video below). … Copponi and Ty Daneault tied for the team lead with five shots on goal. … Every Merrimack center had a positive win percentage on the faceoff dot. ... Christian Felton led the team with three blocked shots.
Merrimack 4, Clarkson 1 at Lawler Arena Clarkson (2-3-0): 0-1-0--1 Merrimack (1-2-0: 1-1-2--4 First Period: 1. MC Matt Copponi 2 (Filip Forsmark, Zach Bookman), pp, 4:19. Second Period: 2. MC Mac Welsher 1 (Christian Felton, Mark Hillier), ev, 10:20; 3. CU Ryan Taylor 3 (Ayrton Martino, Mathieu Gosselin), ev, 16:17. Third Period: 4. MC Chase Stevenson 1 (Tyler Young, Ben Brar), ev, 5:54; 5. MC Chase Stevenson 2 (Ben Brar, Zach Bookman), en, 19:15 Shots: MC 13-5-8--26; CU 3-8-5--16 Saves: MC Borgiel (59:55) 15/16; CU Croteau (58:05) 22/25 Power Play: MC 1 for 6; CU 0 for 4 Penalties: MC 5-10:00; CU 7-14:00 Attendance: 2,947