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.
The Northeastern Huskies notched an authoritative come-from-behind win Sunday evening at Merrimack College, winning the second game of the home-and-home, 6–3.
The Warriors (1–3–0) hosted the Huskies (2–0–0) at Lawler Rink, marking the Huskies’ first away game this season. Merrimack, fresh off of a split series with UMass, lost the first game in Matthews Arena, 8–2, and looked to turn things around on their home ice.
Merrimack opened the scoring, as Alex Jefferies put the puck past a well-screened Connor Murphy off of a feed from Pat Holway. The opportunity came during the power play after a tripping call against the Huskies. The Northeastern penalty kill unit couldn’t clear the puck out of their own zone, allowing Merrimack to work the puck around the perimeter before Jefferies found an opening.
Northeastern continued their slow start, struggling to penetrate the offensive zone as Merrimack took the game’s first seven shots. The Huskies didn’t make things any easier for themselves, either, earning three minor penalties within the first 10 minutes.
Time in the box cost Merrimack the previous night’s game, as Northeastern logged four power-play goals. It looked like the same fate would befall the Huskies, as once again Jeffries struck on the power play. This time it was a Logan Drevitch shot that rang the post and bounced to Jefferies. Connor Murphy couldn’t get to the other side of his crease in time, and Jefferies put the Warriors up 2–0.
“We weren’t giving ourselves a chance,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “First five minutes we had two penalties, and they had one power-play goal. Then the penalties just kept on coming . . . We needed to play smarter.”
Northeastern was still without a single shot on goal when they finally got a power-play chance with just under seven minutes left in the opening period. The Huskies established a rhythm in the offensive zone, and with 10 seconds left on the penalty, Riley Hughes broke through the neutral zone and buried his second goal of the season.
“It gave us some life,” Madigan said. “We needed that goal. We talked about it in one of the timeouts, about cutting the lead in half. Riley had a real second effort there to make it 2–1.”
The Huskies had another opportunity with the man advantage, but couldn’t beat Zachary Borgiel, who made a series of acrobatic stops on some excellent Northeastern shots. Soon before the end of the period, Drevitch found himself on the end of a hit from Northeastern’s Jayden Struble and had to be helped off of the ice by trainers, where he disappeared into the locker room. The Warriors had already lost Patrick Kramer to injury on Saturday night after an ugly collision with the boards. The period ended soon after, with Merrimack leading 2–1.
It didn’t take long before Northeastern ended up back in the penalty box. This time, It was TJ Walsh who was penalized for a slash. However, the Huskies penalty kill clearly made some adjustments during the intermission, as they were much more compact and effective at eating away the penalty time.
After NU killed off the penalty, Merrimack’s Ben Brar was sent into the box for slashing, giving Northeastern a third power-play opportunity. Aidan McDonough cycled the puck up to Jordan Harris at the point, who found a wide open Grant Jozefek lurking on Borgiel’s back post. Jozefek easily put the puck past a still-moving Borgiel, knotting the game up at two.
Just as they had the night before, Northeastern kept their foot on the gas and continued to pressure the Warriors. As a penalty against Merrimack’s Zach Lovett expired, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine dashed down the ice and cooly slid the puck to a following Zach Solow, who zipped the puck right through Borgiel’s five-hole.
Zach Solow was rewarded with not only a goal, but with a 10-minute game misconduct penalty for his actions after the goal. Whether he said something to the referee or one of the Merrimack players was disputed, but regardless, Solow spent the rest of the period in the box.
Northeastern’s defense continued to show out, and used their size to effectively control the neutral zone and keep Merrimack in their own half of the ice. Jeremie Bucheler was a standout physical contributor for the Huskies, as he threw around his 6’1” frame with ease, pinning Warriors skaters against the boards and shunting them off the puck like they were nothing.
After another stellar penalty-killing effort from the Huskies, Steven Agriogianis slid the puck across the ice to Aidan McDonough wide open in the slot with seconds to spare in the period. The sophomore Canucks prospect sniped the top right corner of the net to beat Borgiel glove side.
Early in the third period, Merrimack’s Dominic Dockery took a nasty spill into the boards after a tussle with Gunnarwolf Fontaine for the puck. Dockery was helped into the locker room, and Fontaine was given a five-minute major penalty and an ejection from the game. Northeastern’s penalty kill took this as a challenge, and they were more than up to the task. The Huskies did not allow the Warriors to put a single shot on net for the first two minutes of their power play. Then Merrimack’s Ryan Nolan was sent to the box for interfering with Connor Murphy, leaving both sides with four skaters. Ty Jackson scored his first collegiate point after Agriogianis collected his own rebound and dished the puck to Jackson on the back post.
Merrimack, despite allowing five unanswered goals, proved they were not out of the game yet. Less than thirty seconds after Jackson’s goal, Merrimack’s Conor Lovett scored after the Huskies abandoned him in the slot.
Merrimack sensed the Huskies sleeping on defense and upped the ante on their offensive efforts. Connor Murphy, still between the pipes for Northeastern in Devon Levi’s absence, stood on his head, keeping the lead at two. Merrimack pulled Borgiel with two minutes to go, and after a minute of offensive zone time, Aidan McDonough scored his second goal of the game on an empty net, icing the victory.
“I thought we played solid,” said Madigan of the third period, “Our lines were all jumbled up because of penalties . . . we killed off way too many penalties. We have to address that.” The Huskies were whistled for nine penalties overall, totaling 37 minutes in the box.
Northeastern’s success continues to come from all over the team. Senior captain Zach Solow is expected to produce, but players like Jackson, Fontaine, and Agriogianis, all freshmen, have been contributing too.
“[We were] down 2–0, there was no panic on the bench. The younger guys stuck with it, and the older guys led the way,” Madigan said. “From a coaching perspective, we learned a lot about our guys.”
Northeastern’s net scheduled game is an away series against Vermont on December 26 and 27, though it is possible a game is scheduled for this weekend.
BOSTON — Eight was great for the Huskies Saturday night, as they tallied multiple goals in each frame to claim their first win of the season over Merrimack, 8–2.
Northeastern (1–0–0) hosted Merrimack (1–2–0) for their first game of the season at Matthews Arena. While the Huskies had yet to hit the ice competitively, the Warriors split a home-and-home against a very talented UMass team the prior weekend.
It was the Huskies’ fourth line that created the first goal. The top defensive pairing of Michael Kesselring and Jordan Harris connected as Harris crept in from the blue line. Harris played a slick pass across the ice to freshman Steven Agriogianis, who ripped the puck past Merrimack goalie Troy Kobryn on his glove side for his first college goal.
Northeastern went glove side again on Kobryn later in the frame, as Harris picked up a power-play goal to go with his assist. It was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, as Grant Jozefek passed it low to Zach Solow, who shuttled it across the ice for Harris to fire home.
The Huskies held a two-goal lead entering the break. But they continued relentlessly and picked up four tallies in the second period.
“As the game went along, we got better,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said. “Early in the year, the first game, you’re trying to play to your identity. Every hockey club has their identity and I thought as the first period transitioned to the second period, we started to play more to our identity. In the second period, we had a lot of offensive zone possession time.”
For the first goal, TJ Walsh and Solow combined to win the puck in the offensive zone, catching Merrimack napping. Solow sliced across the ice to set up a forehand and, rather than beating Kobryn high like the first two goals, slipped the puck five-hole for his first of the year.
Solow played provider once again for the fourth, as he patiently waited for sophomore Tyler Spott to enter the zone on the power play. Spott came screaming in, took a sharp feed from his captain, and one-timed it into the top corner, beating Kobryn glove side for the third time on the night. It was Spott’s first career goal.
“The bench went nuts for that one,” Harris said. “He teed it up too, he got good wood on that puck. We were all just so happy for him.”
Harris picked up his second goal of the night on the power play a few minutes later. He played a neat one-two with Jozefek to set up a shot at the point and, with the help of a great Solow screen, rifled yet another puck by Kobryn glove side. The goal went to review, but the officials determined Solow did not interfere with Kobryn in front.
“He’s an elite player so we expect him to play at a high level,” Madigan said of Harris. “It’s nice that he got those goals and got us on the board, two really nice plays. Solow made a nice play to him on his first power-play goal, finding him and he was really good back there just moving pucks.”
The second Harris goal wrapped up Kobyn’s day. The sophomore forfeited five goals in just under a period and a half, and Merrimack head coach Scott Borek had seen enough, replacing him with freshman Zachary Borgiel.
Not that it made a dent in Northeastern’s momentum, as three minutes later, the fourth line combined for another goal.
Spott capitalized on a poor pass from Merrimack and took it into the offensive zone himself. Agriogianis broke forward and continued the rush after receiving it from Spott, and he pushed a neat pass over to Neil Shea, who made no mistake with his finish, beating Borgiel high blocker side.
“I’ll enjoy it for the night,” Agriogianis said. “Obviously, Jordan Harris made a great play and like I said, I’ll enjoy it for tonight but quick turnaround for tomorrow.”
With an increasingly lopsided score, the game got increasingly chippy. Merrimack typically puts out a very physical side, but the Huskies matched their physicality on numerous occasions. Hard hits came across the ice from Northeastern’s Marco Bozzo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Merrimack’s Patrick Kramer. Kramer eventually left the game with an injury after a hit from Northeastern’s Jeremie Bucheler sent him sliding into the boards.
“Every team has certain types of DNA and that’s been a big part of their game: being physical, heavy, they’re strong on pucks,” Madigan said of the Warriors. “One of the things we wanted to adjust a little bit was that hey, we have to be heavier, we had to get over pucks a little bit more because we thought they were a little bit stronger on pucks.”
Photos by Sarah Olender
The Warriors pulled a goal back with a slick rush before the period ended. Logan Drevitch seized the puck at center ice, broke through the Huskies’ defensive line, and fed the onrushing Dominic Dockery with a crisp pass. Dockery beat Husky goaltender Connor Murphy glove side to bring the period to a close at 6–1, NU.
The third period was marred by more physical play and a big scrum after Merrimack’s Patrick Holway grabbed one of the Jackson twins around the neck and attempted to throw him to the ice. Holway received only two minutes alongside Drevitch and Northeastern’s Fontaine.
“I thought we were throwing the body around well, and it’s a smaller building as you know tomorrow,” Solow said of the Sunday tilt at Lawler rink. “So it’s going to be a physical game and we’re ready for it.”
There were no goals until the 17-minute mark, as Agriogianis grabbed his second of the night. Bucheler gave him a great feed in front of the net and the freshman put a pretty redirect on it to take it over the outstretched Borgiel.
Riley Hughes got in on the act just over a minute later to cap the scoring for Northeastern. The sophomore picked the pocket of a Merrimack defender in his own zone and beat Borgiel high blocker side to score the only unassisted goal of the night, and Northeastern’s eighth in total.
The Warriors grabbed the final tally as a bit of consolation, as Liam Walsh fed the puck right across the face of goal to freshman Conor Lovett, who scored his first career goal with ease.
Connor Murphy got his first career win between the pipes, saving 20 of 22 shots and looking comfortable doing so. With Devon Levi off playing for Team Canada, Murphy stepped up and got the job done in game one.
“I thought he did a real good job there,” Madigan said of Murphy. “A couple early rebounds were put back in front, but he knew it and I thought he did a really good job and played with some poise.”
Also standing out for Northeastern were the bottom six forwards. While the Jackson–Jackson–Fontaine line didn’t register any goals, they constantly created chances and caused problems with their speed and agility. The Shea–Agriogianis–Austin Goldstein fourth line created three goals, but also kept steady pressure on Merrimack with the forecheck, something Madigan said the whole team did well.
The two teams will make the hour-long trek up to Merrimack Sunday to cap off the home-and-home.
“We know it’ll be much more of a different situation tomorrow night in their building,” Madigan said. “The confines are a little bit tighter and they play very well at home . . . They’ll be looking to avenge tonight’s game.”
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.