Merrimack continues historic start with win over Holy Cross
NORTH ANDOVER — The Merrimack men’s hockey team is approaching record-setting status.
Last night’s win over Holy Cross improved the Warriors’ record to 10-3 on the season. The victory tied this team for the best start in program history with the 2011-12 team that started 9-0-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation.
These Warriors are tied with that 2011 group for the fastest Merrimack team to reach 10 wins (13 games). Their 7-game winning streak is the longest since the start of the 2011 season and they’re just one game shy of the longest winning streak in the Hockey East era of the program (8 games), which was set in January of 2011.
After last night’s win, the Warriors remained ranked No. 9 nationally in the Pairwise.
Merrimack captain Ben Brar has seen it all in his time with the Warriors. During his freshman season (2019-20) the team won just nine games (9-22-3). The next season was interrupted by the COVID pandemic.
Last season was a step in the right direction. The Warriors finished above-.500 for just the third time in the program’s Hockey East era (31 years).
Beginning in the second half of last season, Merrimack is 23-9 in its last 32 games. That’s almost a full season’s worth of games. Last season, 23 wins would have put the Warriors tied for third nationally in that category.
“We’re finding a way to win these games,” Brar said. “I think my sophomore year, we had a record number of one-goal losses. We’re older now, we’ve grown, and guys are buying into their roles.
“We’re definitely more comfortable and confident. Before, I think we all gripped our sticks a little too tight in those situations but we have faith now that we can get through any situation. We’ll get through anything.”
Holy Cross is struggling — the Crusaders are 2-11-1 — but they didn’t make it easy on the Warriors. After Merrimack stormed out to a 3-1 lead, the Crusaders dominated the second period, where they outshot the Warriors 12-3 and came within two goals after Alex Peterson scored.
But the Warriors came back with two goals in the third period to ice away the game.
“I was really pleased with how our team worked through that,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “They did what they needed to do in the third period and that was impressive. It’s a nice building block, to be able to come back and play that way after the second period. That shows good growth for our team.
“We took our foot off the gas a little bit (in the second period). We’re still growing in these types of games. It was 3-0, and they kept playing hard. We haven’t been in these situations a lot. So we’re still growing, but I liked the way we played in the third. That’s the most important part of the game. How were we going to answer in the third period? We did a great job with it.”
Merrimack has the week off. The Warriors will get back in action next Tuesday against Connecticut. The Huskies will play Cornell at Madison Square Garden this Saturday. UConn is in the midst of its best start in program history. The Huskies are 10-2-3 and will enter this weekend ranked No. 3 nationally in the Pairwise.
Ed. Note - Portions of this story will appear in Wednesday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
Merrimack 5, Holy Cross 1 at Lawler Arena Holy Cross (2-11-1): 0-1-0--1 Merrimack (10-3-1): 2-1-2--5 First Period: 1. MC Zach Bookman 2 (Will Calverley, Hugo Esselin), ev, 9:00; 2. MC Hugo Esselin 1 (Mike Brown), ev, 14:44. Second Period: 3. MC Matt Copponi 7 (Ottoville Leppanen, Mark Hillier), pp, 2:46; 4. HC Alex Peterson 2 (Jack Ricketts, Mack Oliphant), ev, 12:58; 5. MC Ottoville Leppanen 2 (Alex Jefferies, Matt Copponi), ev, 4:25; 6. MC Ottoville Leppanen 3 (Mike Brown, Mark Hillier), ev, 16:20. Shots: MC 16-3-4--23; HC 5-12-7--24 Saves: MC Borgiel (60:00) 22/23; HC Hogg (60:00) 18/23 Penalties: Merrimack 5-10; Holy Cross 5-10 Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 3; Holy Cross 0 for 3 Attendance: 1,468