Action Jackson: Twins Combine for OT Winner

Story by Sarah Olender

Photos by Jordan Baron

BOSTON — In Merrimack’s last series, which was nearly a month ago, they lost to Northeastern. Or, more accurately, Northeastern obliterated them, sweeping the series by a combined 14–5 score.

“They didn’t believe me when I said it’s not going to be a 6–3 or 8–3 game,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said of Saturday night’s contest.

The Warriors hadn’t played a game in nearly a month. The Huskies had established themselves as the dominant team and were even getting Sam Colangelo back from World Juniors, as the second-round NHL draftee had just won gold with Team USA.

The Huskies went in confident, but quickly realized that Madigan was right. Expecting Merrimack to be rusty, Northeastern came in sluggish, relaxed, lazy, and even sloppy. They missed passes, found themselves in the penalty box far too often, and created few offensive opportunities. 

It wasn’t long before Merrimack made them pay. Filip Forsmark caught a rebound that Northeastern goaltender Connor Murphy couldn’t control. He knocked it into the net and Northeastern ended the first period down 1–0. 

In the second period, Northeastern didn’t improve their lackluster performance much. They remained slow, lazy, and they made, for lack of a better word, stupid plays. With their lack of presence on both sides of the ice, it took barely any effort for Merrimack to put another tally on the board. Chase Gresock tipped a pass from Mac Welsher right behind Murphy to double the lead.

The Huskies started the third period a little better, and responded well when Ty Jackson was given a penalty for goalie interference. On the penalty kill, Northeastern’s Grant Jozefek rushed into the offensive zone on a break out; Patrick Holway caught up to him and slashed Jozefek’s stick to prevent a goal. The slash cost Merrimack a penalty, and since Jozefek was on a prime scoring opportunity, he got a penalty shot. After 45 minutes of play, the Huskies finally made it onto the board.

“We were out of sync, Madigan said. “He gave us life there.”

“When [Jozefek] got that breakaway and he had that penalty shot, we got a lot of momentum from that,” said Dylan Jackson. “When someone scores, it just gives everyone energy on the bench.”

Soon after that, Madigan changed up the lines. His risky choice to pair Gunnarwolfe Fontaine with the Jackson twins paid off, as the Jacksons fed Fontaine a pass and he shot a bar down goal right behind Borgiel. At the end of the third, the game was tied 2–2. 

“Once we started getting our legs, we started getting more chances, and you try to carry that,” Dylan Jackson said. 

Northeastern entered overtime with all the momentum, plus a power play after a Forsmark goalie interference penalty at the end of the third. Zach Solow, Aidan McDonough, Jordan Harris, and Fontaine generated some good opportunities but didn’t capitalize. At this point, Merrimack had run out of steam and was barely making an offensive effort. They were in survival mode. 

As the penalty expired and three-on-three hockey commenced, the Jackson twins took the ice with Jayden Struble. The twins broke out on a two-on-one, passed back and forth in front to knock Borgiel out of position, and ended the game when Dylan Jackson found the back of the net.

“We’ve been playing together for 15 years now so we have that chemistry,” Jackson said. “We just kind of know where each other are going to be.”

The Huskies will face Merrimack again Sunday at 3 PM in North Andover.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Merrimack Warriors

Last Season: 9–22–3 (7–14–3, 10th in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Scott Borek (third season)

Preseason poll projected finish: 10th

Departures: F Tyler Drevitch, F Tyler Irvine, F Patrick Kramer, F Griff Jeszka, F Sami Tavernier

Additions: F Conor Lovett, F Alex Jefferies, F Jakob Lee, D Kevin Sadovski, F Filip Karlsson-Tagtstrom, G Zachary Borgiel

By Jordan Baron

The 2019–20 Merrimack Warriors were not great. Things aren’t looking much better this year.

Departing are five senior forwards, two of whom were top-five scorers. This includes captain Tyler Drevitch, who tallied nine goals and seven assists before signing with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. 

However, where there is loss, there is also hope. The incoming freshmen class contain many talented players, including four new forwards. At the top of the class sits Alex Jefferies, rated 97th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Jefferies finished his final season at The Gunnery last year, totaling 33 goals and 36 assists on the season.

The incoming class also includes goaltender Zachary Borgiel, who slotted a 26–12–4 record with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL, putting together a 2.55 goals against average and .923 save percentage across 44 appearances.

The Warriors also held on to three of their top five scorers from last season: defenseman Declan Carlile and forwards Chase Gresock and Logan Drevitch.

Bottom Line: It’s going to be tough for the Warriors to improve upon last season given the status of their offense. Although they held onto all of their defenseman and goaltenders, their front lines were stripped. There is a glimmer of hope, as some members of the freshman class look promising, but it most likely will not be enough to finish higher than the preseason poll ranks them.

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.