NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Merrimack head coach Scott Borek didn’t mince words when reflecting on last weekend’s opening-weekend split with No. 8 UMass. Getting the win on Sunday he thought was huge. He hopes it sets the proper tone for the 2020-21 season.
“Last year we were leaving Lake Superior and we felt good about how we played in five of those six periods, but not winning one of those games I think set the tone for the first third of our season,” Borek said. “Every game that went by we were squeezing tighter. Winning a game opening weekend last year I think does a lot for our confidence and opens us up a little more. I hope that winning last weekend does that for us now.”
It’s especially important this season, which without non-league games and only Hockey East opponents on the schedule will make for one of the toughest schedules in program history.
“There are no gimmies,” Borek said, “but non-league games can give you some confidence if you win them.”
The Warriors will play a home-and-home series with Northeastern this weekend. Saturday’s game at Matthews Arena will be the first one of the season for the Huskies, who are without goaltender Devon Levi (he’s with Team Canada at the World Juniors). The Huskies will also be missing star freshman Sam Colangelo, a second-round pick of the Ducks, who is with Team USA.
Merrimack will still be without defensemen Zach Uens and Declan Carlile, who are “unavailable to play” due to COVID protocols. Borek confirmed that goaltender Jere Huhtamaa will also miss the weekend buy Troy Kobryn is back with the team.
“The guys who started the week good are still good,” he said. “Jere had a concussion from that UMass game. I feel bad for him because he was playing really well and that’s the kind of game he needed. That was a big game for Jere and he was playing really well.”
Kobryn or freshman Zach Borgiel, who won his collegiate debut last weekend, will likely see the time in goal. Borek didn’t expect many changes in the lineup for Saturday either, but stopped short of saying there would be no changes on Sunday.
“I liked our lines from last Sunday,” he said. “We showed good chemistry in those groups. We’re still playing with them but I would think that they will look similar. But, I don’t think they’ll be the same two nights in a row. You want to see what you have. We haven’t played Jake Lee yet, and he’s a good player. Our freshmen have contributed a lot.”
In Northeastern’s crease, head coach Jim Madigan said that Connor Murphy and Curtis Frye have been battling it out.
“We’re still working (the goalie situation) out,” he said. “All three goalies have battled hard and competed well. Curtis or Connor will get the nod on Saturday but we’ll keep evaluating them game to game. We’re very happy with where all three of our goalies are.”
Madigan said on Wednesday that the Huskies had no one out due to COVID protocols.
“We’ve been practicing hard but when you’re out there against another team it’s a different kind of test,” he said. “Our first challenge is Saturday. It’s a typical Merrimack team. They play heavy, they’re physical and they finish their checks. In some ways, they aren’t typical because they have more skill and more finish. Last year in the second half, they were playing as well as anyone. The younger core they have on D is good and they brought in some players who have some finish there. We know those players, we watched them play. (Alex) Jefferies and (Chase) Gresock generate a lot but there are a lot of other good players they’ve brought in. They’re well balanced.”
Puck drop at Matthews on Saturday is set for 6 p.m. with the teams playing the final game of the series on Sunday (4 p.m.) at Lawler Arena.