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Merrimack back to the drawing board after getting swept by Maine
NORTH ANDOVER — Back to the drawing board for Merrimack head coach Scott Borek, his staff, and the rest of the Warriors.
Maine -- one of the hottest teams in college hockey -- ran out to a four-goal lead to start the third period and then held on for a 5-4 victory to complete the weekend sweep of the Warriors. It's still very early, but Maine ended the weekend ranked No. 4 in the Pairwise rankings, and the two losses dropped Merrimack (3-3-1) from No. 9 to No. 29.
The Warriors were sloppy through two periods. Maine led 5-1 at the second intermission and doubled the Warriors in shots, 28-14.
"We got outplayed," Borek said. "They were more physical. We didn't play well. It was disappointing, and I blame myself. I think last night I asked a lot of a small group of players. Those guys are tired in this game, and that's on me."
Even though the Warriors got Alex Jefferies and Tyler Young back this weekend, they're still devastated by injuries at the moment, especially on defense. Mike Brown, Ivan Zivlak, and Adam Arvedson are all on the shelf. That has left the Warriors with just six healthy defensemen the last two weekends, and two of those players are freshmen.
The Warriors are still without center Chase Stevenson, who had three goals in four games before getting hurt.
Merrimack made a push in the third period. The Warriors scored three goals to make it a 5-4 game.
"No, the third wasn't something to build off of," Borek said. "We still gave them some great chances and Hugo (Ollas) had to make some huge saves. It was just disappointing, and as the coaches, we need to get to work."
After falling behind, the Warriors shuffled lines around. At one point, Jefferies and Matt Copponi -- who both started the game as centers -- were on the same line, with Jefferies playing the wing.
"Just trying to find a spark," Borek said. "It was successful a little bit, but that's a short-term fix. We got bigger things we need to do better."
Freshman forward Ty Daneault began the game on Jefferies' line with Ben Brar, a huge promotion for the rookie. Daneault is the youngest player on the team (born Dec. 20, 2004). It was a night filled with emotional ups and downs, though. In the second period, Daneault sat some shifts before he returned to the game in the third period.
"He had an up-and-down weekend, and he knew it," Borek said. "I think I asked a lot of him putting him with Jeff and Benny. Ty is a really good player and he makes a lot of plays through the rink. He's going to create opportunities. He'll eventually fit well with those guys, because he's that type of player. I think I may have been asking too much tonight, though. That's a big challenge."
Daneault had chances on the weekend. Friday night, he hit the post, and on Saturday, he was hauled down on a partial breakaway and had a puck slip just wide of the left post after getting it past Maine goalie Victor Ostman.
Merrimack will travel to UConn on Friday to begin a home-and-home series with the Huskies. UConn salvaged a split with Vermont on Saturday with a 5-2 win.
Third Period Push Led by the Captains
Alex Jefferies had two goals in the third period, and Ben Brar and Liam Dennison both had assists. They all wear captain letters, along with Christian Felton and Mac Welsher. If there was one positive takeaway Borek had from the third period, it was the play of his leadership group.
"They were great between periods in the locker room, and I thought they looked at themselves in the mirror and did what they needed to do," he said. "They answered the bell. Every guy with a letter on his sweater made a big play in the third period. That's all you can ask."
Hugo Ollas wore a new mask on the bench in the first two periods, while Zachary Borgiel made the start. Ollas was called into action in the third period, and it was the first game action for the new mask.
Maine freshman Bradly Nadeau, a Carolina first-round pick, had 12 shots and registered two goals and one assist.
Maine 5, Merrimack 1 at Lawler Arena Maine (5-1-0): 2-3-0--5 Merrimack (3-3-1): 0-1-3--4 First Period: 1. ME Brandon Chabrier 2 (Donavan Villeneuve-Houle, Harrison Scott), ev, 0:37; 2. ME Bradly Nadeau 4 (Lynden Breen), ev, 8:18. Second Period: 3. ME Bradly Nadeau 5 (Lynden Breen, Luke Antonacci), ev, 1:15; 4. MC Mac Welsher 2 (unassisted), ev, 5:41; 5. ME Ben Poisson 2 (Cole Hanson, Grayson Arnott), ev, 11:03; 6. ME Sully Scholle 1 (Bradly Nadeau, Josh Nadeau), ev, 17:58. Third Period: 7. MC Alex Jefferies 1 (Matt Copponi, Ben Brar), ev, 3:48; 8. MC Michael Citara 4 (Liam Dennison), ev, 10:29; 9. MC Alex Jefferies 2 (Zach Bookman, Michael Citara), ea, 16:16 Shots: MC 9-5-9--23; ME 12-16-8--36 Saves: MC Borgiel (40:00) 23/28, Ollas (18:27) 8/8; ME Ostman (60:00) 19/23 Power Play: MC 0 for 2; ME 0 for 1 Penalties: MC 1-2:00, ME 2-4:00 Attendance: 2,189 (2,549)