Men’s Hockey Bests Merrimack in Fight-Filled Penalty Fest

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Catherine Morrison

Saturday night’s homecoming game was a tension filled dramafest. Multiple fights broke out. 23 penalties were called, with Merrimack’s 13 and Northeastern’s 10 both setting season highs. Three players were hit with 10-minute misconduct penalties.

And amid it all, Northeastern pulled out a 3–1 win.

NU’s Tyler Madden celebrated his 20th birthday by opening the scoring. Eight minutes into the first period, he fired a backhand shot into the top right corner of the goal for his sixth of the season. Only a great save by Merrimack goalie Jere Huhtamaa prevented a second Madden goal in the period.

Although there were no more first-period goals, the drama was still there as Northeastern’s Matt Filipe got into a scuffle with a Merrimack player behind the net. Filipe was called for cross checking, and Northeastern held down the fort while he was in the penalty box. Madden looked angry as he argued with the referee after the call, and was whistled shortly after when he got into it with Merrimack’s Liam Walsh. Both players were sent to the penalty box.

The second period started with two Northeastern players and one Merrimack player in the box. With thirty seconds left in the power play, Filipe joined them after he was called for hooking. Filipe slammed his stick against the glass as he skated in, drawing a whopping 10-minute penalty for misconduct.

Seven saves by Husky goalie Craig Pantano and an unsuccessful Merrimack penalty challenge helped Northeastern emerge unscathed. But the box wouldn’t remain empty for long. Northeastern’s Biagio Lerario and Merrimack’s Regan Kimins kept the seats warm after a heated faceoff yielded a dual unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Two minutes later, Merrimack’s Tyler Irvine was whistled for hooking. Before the PA announcer could finish announcing the penalty, Aidan McDonough slapped home a one-timer off an assist from Madden and Ryan Shea.

Shortly afterwards, Northeastern’s Zach Solow was aggressively knocked down and ate ice, but the refs didn’t call it, despite penalizing nearly everything else. The Huskies got their revenge when — after Merrimack’s Declan Carlile went to the box for interference — Aidan McDonough chipped in a floater for his second goal of the period.

The third period started with yet another power play after Northeastern’s TJ Walsh was called for tripping. With 11 minutes remaining, Lerario slammed into Merrimack’s Colin Murphy, flew over his head, and got into a scuffle on the side of the rink with some displeased Merrimack players. The fracas yielded an interference penalty for Lerario and a penalty apiece for Merrimack’s Logan Drevitch and Zach Vinnell. Northeastern failed to convert on the power play.

With five minutes remaining, Carlile finally put Merrimack on the board off an assist by Ryan Nolan and Liam Walsh. Northeastern challenged the call saying there was interference, but the call stood. The win moved Northeastern to 5–3–2 (2–2–1 HEA) and dropped Merrimack to 2–7–1 (1–3–1 HEA). The Huskies continue play with a home-and-home against Providence Friday and Saturday.

Hockey East Preview: Merrimack Warriors

Last Season: 7–24–3 (4–18–2, 11th place); missed HE playoffs

Head Coach: Scott Borek (second season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: 11th

Losses

  • G Logan Halladay
  • G Craig Panatano
  • G Drew Volger
  • D Matt McArdle
  • D Alex Carle
  • F Derek Petti
  • F Michael Babcock
  • F Christian Simeone
  • F Chase Olsen
  • F Jackson Bales
  • F Laine McKay
  • F Cole McBride
  • F Logan Coomes

Additions

  • G Jere Huhtamaa
  • G Troy Kobryn
  • D Declan Carlile
  • D Jacob Modry
  • D Zach Vinell
  • D Zach Uens
  • D Liam Dennison
  • F Liam Walsh
  • F Hugo Esselin
  • F Regan Kimmens
  • F Mac Welsher
  • F Ben Brar
  • F Joey Cassetti
  • F Christian Simeone
  • F Ryan Nolan
  • F Flip Forsmark
  • F James Corcoran

By Dale Desantis

Last year was the beginning of a plan for seismic change in Merrimack’s hockey program. The school replaced 13-year head coach Mark Dennehy with successful Providence assistant Scott Borek. With Merrimack relatively new in Division I — men’s hockey joined in 1989 — the perception of the North Shore program seemed ready to change.

Unfortunately, Merrimack hit a new low in 2018–19, tallying just seven wins all year and finishing last in Hockey East with four conference wins. It was their worst record in twelve seasons; the team hasn’t had a winning record since 2011. Wins over powerhouses Northeastern, BU, BC, and Michigan provided the season’s sole saving grace.

After such a dismal season it’s unsurprising that for Borek to retain his position, he needed to immediately bail out the Warriors’ sinking ship. Coming into this season, he cut seven players and recruited sixteen. As the prospects stand for this season, no one expects too much for the upcoming season.

One of the few returning bright spots is freshman goal scorer Chase Gresock. Tallying 24 points with 11 goals and 13 assists last season, the newcomer cemented himself as someone to watch. Hopefully within Borek’s big recruiting class coach there’s a better first line to help Gresock build upon a respectable start to his career.

Bottom Line: Merrimack is a last-place team, and when seven players are cut going into a season it reflects poorly on the pre-Borek era. Until Borek strings together good recruiting classes, Merrimack will remain at the bottom of Hockey East.