Merrimack falls to Quinnipiac in NCAA Tournament
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Merrimack’s season ended on Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Quinnipiac defeated the Warriors 5-0.
“It’s a tough way to end the year,” said Merrimack head coach Scott Borek. “It’s always tough when you lose the last game. But tonight, we just lost to a team that played a lot better than we did in critical areas of the game. I don’t mind losing. I’m not emotional because we lost. I just love our team, I didn’t want to stop coaching them. It kills me.”
Merrimack couldn’t do much other than tip its cap to the Bobcats, who improved to 31-4-3 on the season. Quinnipiac outshot the Warriors 35-15 and limited Merrimack to just eight shots on goal over the final two periods combined.
Quinnipiac is the best defensive team in the country.
The score was still 0-0 at the end of the first period and the Warriors looked excellent killing off a pair of Quinnipiac power plays. But Quinnipiac scored two goals in the first 3:29 of the second period to open up a 2-0 lead.
A two-goal deficit against a team as locked down defensively as Quinnipiac can feel like 10-0.
But Borek didn’t talk much about the game, other than to praise Quinnipiac’s team. It wasn’t about what happened on the ice today, it was about what happened on the ice over the last six months.
“This wasn’t our night,” Borek said. “Quinnipiac is a heck of a hockey team. It just wasn’t our night. But the lessons we learned from each other, we’ll never forget it.”
It won’t happen immediately, but there is still a lot this Merrimack team accomplished that should make the Warriors proud.
The Warriors won 23 games, the second-most in the program's D-I/Hockey East era. That bested last year’s 19-win campaign, which was (at that point) the second-most wins of the program.
Merrimack advanced to the Hockey East championship game and the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. They came up just short of capturing a league title (it would have been the program’s first) after falling to BU in overtime.
Over the last two seasons, Merrimack has gone 42-28-1. That two-year total is just behind the Warriors from 2010-12 (43-22-11).
This season, in particular, the Warriors played to honor assistant coach Josh Ciocco, who passed away in October.
“I feel really good about our body of work,” Borek said. “No one in that locker room, including the coaching staff, dealt with what we dealt with when we lost Josh. We came out the other side and had a heck of a year, as I know Josh would want us to.
“Our players deserved the year we had because they are an unbelievable group of young men. I’m proud of our body of work. It’s hard knowing I’m not going to coach those guys. I’ve been coaching since I was 22 years old, and I’ve never been around a team like that in my life. Some of it is what we went through. A lot of it is who we were and who they were as young men. I couldn’t be prouder to call them part of my family.”
Borek was emotional speaking about this group in his postgame comments. He also deflected some of the praise sent his way by the assembled media.
“I think coaches get too much credit,” he said. “I’m lucky that Josh Ciocco and Dan Jewell brought this team a group of young men who brought this team to where it is today.”
Now, Jewell and Borek will work on bringing in the next group.
“I feel great about the next steps for our program,” Borek said. “I’m excited to work on that when the time is correct to make sure we have a chance to return here again. It’s a special experience. Being in the NCAA Tournament is something you should never take for granted.”