Marcus Antonelli – Sports Editor
Another weekend of Hockey East competition saw Merrimack taking on the UMaine Black Bears. Coming into this stint, the Black Bears were nationally ranked 20th in the nation, most recently splitting against the National Champion defenders Quinnipiac, making their record a comfortable 3-1-0. The Warriors in their last 5 games against Maine have dominated winning the last 4 of those 5. This time however, UMaine evened the score. The Warriors got swept and have dropped to 10th in the Hockey East at a 1-2-0 record. Let’s get into the recap.
To start off, the Warriors were looking in the mirror on Friday night. In the first period, the Black Bears took it to Merrimack, playing a body first style that ultimately worked to their credit. UMaine Head Coach Ben Barr’s game plan had MC on their heels late in the period, as the Warriors were caught deep in their own zone trying to fend off the oncoming Maine attackers.
Then early in the second, UMaine struck blood. A drop pass by Merrimack’s Ben Brar found the stick of Maine’s Josh Nadeau. Nadeau flung the puck to an all alone Lynden Breen who roofed it top left over the blocker of Hugo Ollas, making it 1-0 Maine.
From there, Merrimack worked for every chance they could get. Ultimately, as the chances increased, Maine kept shutting them down. Black Bear Goaltender Victor Ostman was a wall, stopping every chance MC had to score. If there wasn’t a slot opportunity, the puck would be taken away by Maine with ease as soon as the Warriors gained possession. If you were a member of the Lawler Faithful, it was a frustrating watch.
In the second half of the third period, Lynden Breen caused a turnover in Merrimack’s D-zone, where the puck found Josh Nadeau, who found his brother Bradly for a one timer goal that made it 2-0. Merrimack’s Copponi would score late in the game but Maine would hold on and win game one, 2-1. Coach Scott Borek further emphasized on the result, “I thought they played a little bit harder than we did and they were very hungry,” says Borek, “We need to be more prepared for the physicality they have.”
In game two, things went from bad to worse. Maine wasted no time in the beginning of the game as they scored 37 seconds in from a point shot by defenseman Brandon Chabrier. From there, it was pandemonium. The Warriors conceded five goals and only scored one goal thanks to Mac Welsher before the second period concluded. As hard as Merrimack was trying throughout the game to create momentum, it felt like the Black Bears were feasting on their opponent, winning every fifty-fifty puck battle and relentlessly pressuring.
In the third period, Coach Borek made the executive decision to put Hugo Ollas in net. As brilliant as Zachary Borgiel has been so far this year, it just wasn’t a fun night to be between the pipes. Borgy faced a whopping 28 shots before he was benched. Typically, 28 shots on net is average for an entire game.
The Warriors picked up some speed and gradually began a comeback that eventually fell short. While Merrimack had the momentum to get back in the game, there wasn’t enough time. They couldn’t dig out of the hole created, resulting in a final score of Maine 5, Merrimack 4. After the game, Coach Borek got straight to the point, “In general, we got outplayed and ‘out physicaled’ and just didn’t play very well,” Borek exclaimed, “The coaches have to get to work here.”
The boys do have some work to do as they fall to 3-4-0 in their overall record. Luckily for them, they have a chance to remedy that against the UConn Huskies. Next weekend will be a split home matchup, the Warriors will head down to play at the new Toscano Ice Forum on Friday. Then, they’ll come back to complete the series Saturday at Lawler Rink. The Hockey East has become the most competitive conference so far this season, with 6 to 7 teams making the nations top 20 rankings each week. For Merrimack, it’s important they don’t drop too far in the standings.