Merrimack falls to Providence on opening night

PROVIDENCE — Merrimack fell to No. 11 Providence, 5-2, last night in the opener for the 2021-22 season. The Friars scored in the first minute of the game and then scored three straight goals after the Warriors tied the score later in the period.

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The Friars scored first, just as they did against Army this past weekend. After Parker Ford gave his team the early lead, Merrimack defenseman Declan Carlile scored his first of two goals at the 7:20 mark. Carlile’s shot went through traffic from inside the blue line and was untouched on its way to the net. 

The Friars took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission after a pair of power-play goals in the final 10 minutes of the first. Michael Callahan scored first and Cody Monds scored the second power-play goal with three minutes remaining in the opening period.

Merrimack head coach Scott Borek was absent from the bench. Merrimack’s director of hockey, Bob Emery, served as acting head coach. Emery was the longtime head coach at SUNY-Plattsburgh before joining the Merrimack staff two years ago.

Merrimack received a last-minute waiver which allowed Emery to coach the team. 

Borek was not with the team after he tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19, according to the school.

“(Borek) has officially tested positive for a breakthrough case after he was in contact with an individual that had also tested positive,” Merrimack said in a statement. “He's been isolating away from the team since he was in contact and all players and staff members have now been tested themselves.”

Borek said earlier this week that he had a family member test positive. Merrimack has a vaccination requirement for all staff and students on campus. A “breakthrough case” is when a person who has been fully vaccinated tests positive for COVID-19.

“Coach Borek said all week long that the first 10 minutes would be important and we allowed a quick goal early,” said Emery. “Getting behind like that really hurt us. That was a big part of the game. But I give our guys a lot of credit because we battled back.”

Providence began to pull away when Cam McDonald scored at the 1:51 mark of the second period to make it 4-1, but the Warriors made it a game again when Carlile scored his second goal of the game seven minutes later.

Despite trailing 4-2 on the scoreboard at the end of two periods, the Warriors generated chances in the offensive zone, but they misfired on shots and weren’t able to convert those chances into goals.

ZachUens and Filip Forsmark almost hooked up on a home-run pass down the right-wing side, but Forsmark had trouble collecting the bouncing puck at the blue line. Liam Walsh had a shot in the second period that sailed just over the crossbar after beating Providence goaltender Jaxson Stauber over the shoulder and the Warriors had several other shots that either missed the net, or some chances in the first period where they whiffed on pucks.

“We had a lot of good looks when it was 4-2,” Emery said. “Filip Forsmark had a shot that hit the goalie’s knob. Matt Copponi had a nice pass across the crease and we couldn’t connect on it. Regan Kimens had a look where he almost went in all alone. I think as the season goes on, we’ll be a little more smooth. We definitely looked like a team that played their first game tonight. No excuses. We have to build on this and we have to build on our mistakes.”

Merrimack went 0 for 4 on the power play while the Friars scored on their first two power-play chances of the game. 

“We missed the net on a lot of shots, especially on the power play,” Emery said. “When you miss the net, not only do you  miss the chance to score a goal, but you miss on an opportunity that might come from a rebound.”

The penalty kill settled down after allowing two goals early. 

“I thought our five-on-five play wasn’t bad tonight,” Emery said. “We gave up the two power-play goals. We’ll have to go back and look at the tape. We need to get a little better there. Coach (Dan Jewell) does a great job working on the penalty kill so I’m sure he’ll have it fixed and ready to go for Saturday night.”

Merrimack will host Sacred Heart in the home opener on Saturday night at Lawler Arena.

Carlile was lost midway through the third period after an awkward collision with goaltender Zach Borgiel as he came from behind the net. Carlile was immediately helped to the back by a Merrimack trainer and did not return. Word after the game was that the issue does not appear to be serious. 

Game Notes

Declan Carlile’s two goals marked the first time he has scored twice in a game in his college career. … Merrimack wore their road blue jerseys while Providence wore their home white shirts. … Max Newton led the Warriors with a 14-9 record on faceoffs. … Alex Jefferies, Uens, and Logan Drevitch tied for the team lead with three shots on goal each. … Providence had a 63-49 edge in shot attempts; the attempts at even strength were 52-41 for the Friars.

#11 Providence 5, Merrimack 2
At Schneider Arena
Merrimack (0-1-0): 1-1-0—2
Providence (2-0-0): 3-1-1—5
First Period: 1. PC Parker Ford (Cody Monds, Nick Poisson), ev, 0:50; 2. MC Declan Carlile (unassisted), ev, 7:20; 3. PC Michael Callahan (unassisted), pp, 10:35; 4. PC Cody Monds (Michael Callahan, Brett Berard), pp, 17:00.
Second Period: 5. PC Cam McDonald (Alex Esposito, Brett Berard), ev, 1:51; 6. MC Declan Carlile (Liam Walsh, Adam Arvedson), ev, 8:11.
Third Period: 7. PC Chase Yoder (Jamie Engelbert), en, 17:57.
Shots: Merrimack 7-9-8—24; Providence 13-10-10—33
Saves: MC Borgiel 28-32 (59:04); PC Stauber 22-24 (60:00)
Power Play: MC 0 for 4; PC 2 or 4
Penalties: MC 5-10; PC 5-10