Hockey East Preview: Merrimack Warriors

merrimackCoach: Scott Borek–1st season (0-0-0)

Last Season: 12-21-4 (7-15-2 in Hockey East, 10th place); lost to top-seeded Boston College in quarterfinals of Hockey East Tournament

Losses: Aaron Titcomb (D), Marc Biega (D), Jace Hennig (F), Ludvig Larsson (F), Brett Seney (F), Jared Kolquist (D), Mathieu Tibbet (F)

Additions: Ethan DeStefani (F), Jordan Seyfert (F), Chase Gresock (F), Chase Olsen (F), Logan Drevitch (F), August Von Ungern-Sternberg (F), Christian Simeone (F), Tyler Heidt (D)

Projected Finish: 11th

by Justin Littman

After a couple of seasons competing among the middle of the pack in Hockey East, last year was a disappointing return to the bottom for Merrimack. The Warriors finished 10th in the conference, and ultimately lost to Boston College in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East tournament. This poor result ended up costing head coach Mark Dennehy his job. Dennehy, who took the job as a rebuilding project 13 seasons ago, had not seen his Warriors advance beyond the Hockey East quarterfinals since an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011.

Stepping into the head coaching role is Scott Borek, who spent the last 16 seasons as an associate head coach. Borek will be tasked with a similar challenge that Dennehy faced 13 years prior, looking to build this program from the ground up. The Preseason Coaches’ poll has the Warriors finishing last in Hockey East, and this season figures to have a strong emphasis on growth and development.

Merrimack will have to find a way to make up for lost production. Their top three points leaders from last season (Seney, Hennig, Kolquist) were lost to graduation, along with defenseman Marc Biega. Additionally, leading goal-scorer Ludvig Larsson chose to transfer to Penn State. For a team that already finished at the bottom of the conference last season, moving up in the standings will be a steep hill to climb.

This team will rely heavily on Johnathan Kovacevic and Alex Carle to hold down the line defensively. Kovacevic, a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, was one of Merrimack’s top defensemen last season, and will be relied on heavily for a team that has more questions than answers at goalie. Junior forward Sami Tavernier is the top returning scorer for the Warriors, and he will be asked to take on a bigger offensive role alongside Logan Coomes and Cole McBride. The Warriors add seven freshmen forwards to this roster, where there will be plenty of opportunity to make an impact.

Bottom Line:

The Warriors struggled last season, and have lost many of their top forwards and defensemen since. With a new head coach, the emphasis this season will be on establishing a culture, and growing this program for years to come. In the short-term, this team has very few established options, and they return zero double-digit goal scorers from last season. Aside from the seniors, losing Ludvig Larsson to transfer was a big blow this team could hardly afford. They lack offensive options, and goaltending remains a significant question. Merrimack will need a lot of things to break right in order to finish anywhere outside the bottom tier of Hockey East.

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