The Warriors dropped the ball this weekend. Falling to 0-2-0 in their overall record after the Sun Devils upset them in a surprising fashion. With how both teams did in their previous seasons, this weekend stint looked like Merrimack was favored the victor. But the Devil always brings some unanticipated fortune, and Arizona State took advantage.
The prior news heading into the weekend saw Merrimack’s top forward and point getter suffering a lower body injury and with that was unable to travel with the team. Alex Jefferies, who last year tallied 41 points (Most on the team), and played a pretty good preseason game vs SHU prior to this weekend.
Even without the senior forward, the Warriors still roster a formidable group. We saw the likes of many new faces getting key playing time like Tyler Young (F), Luke Weilandt (F), Frank Djurasevic (D), Devlin O’Brien (F) among others.
But what caused the Warriors to fumble these games? Let’s look at the stats. Merrimack led the shot count in game 1 for most of the competition, leading 15-8 after the first period and 23-18 after the second. The offense forechecked well, played the puck efficiently and created many opportune scoring chances. That wasn’t much to look over.
Late in the 1st period, Filip Forsmark received a cheap shot from ASU’s Ty Murchison which later led to Murchison receiving a cross check from Matt Copponi in retaliation. Both Murchison and Copponi would receive matching game misconducts. Merrimack would then be without their top two scorers, losing Copponi along with Jeffieres already out, left a hole in Merrimack’s offense.
Despite playing extremely good team defense it would only hold on for so long. The Sun Devils Matthew Kopperud would capitalize on a rebound that he would bat in mid air past Zachary Borgiel to win it in OT. Borgiel had played amazing this game stopping all 30 shots before the game winner.
The next night Copponi would come back into the lineup and the offense would pick it up. Mark Hillier opened the scoring in the second period. Then a few minutes after the Sun Devils tied it, Matt Copponi was able to take advantage of a loose rebound to give us the 2-1 lead.
What cost the Warriors their money was the abundance of penalties. Merrimack spent at least an hour killing off Arizona State’s power play in both games. While in the first game MC killed off all 7 of the penalties taken, it would not carry over to game two.
Merrimack would concede 7 penalties again, and the first five were killed off efficiently. But the last two would cost them. In the late third, Merrimack’s Tyler Young received a game misconduct and a 5 minute major, which ASU’s Lukas Sillinger would score on to tie the game at two.
Then late in the third period, Merrimack would receive a too many men penalty with a minute left in the game. And once again the Warriors defense was too battered down to hold the line, allowing 2 consecutive power play goals to lose the lead and the game.
The Warriors walked away tallying a whopping 56 total penalty minutes across the two games played. They were given 8 power plays and in the end had not been able to convert on any of them. Certainly not the way the team wanted to start the year. If Merrimack wants to keep their preseason expectations afloat they will have a chance this home opener weekend vs Clarkson and St. Lawrence to bounce back. Last year they boasted one of the best home records in the Hockey East, so let’s hope the luck of a newly renovated Lawler is on their side