The Takeaway: Merrimack snaps winless skid at Providence

Posted by: Mike McMahon

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Josh Myers’ third-period goal proved to be the difference as Merrimack College snapped a five-game winless skid with a 2-1 win on the road at Providence College.

The Warriors picked up their first victory since beating Vermont on Oct. 26. It was the Warriors’ longest winless skid in three years.

Brian Christie also scored for the Warriors, who got 34 saves from first-year goaltender Rasmus Tirronen. Tim Schaller scored for the Friars and Jon Gillies stopped 22 shots.

What I saw

– Josh Myers scored, what was at the time, a critical insurance goal for the Warriors in the third period, picking up a puck in the neutral zone and racing in alone on a breakaway to beat Friar netminder Gillies. After Tim Schaller scored for the Friars later in the third, Myers’ goal winded up being the game winner. It was Myers’ fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 26. The sophomore from Colorado Springs started the season on a five-game point streak before going pointless in his last seven games heading into last night.

– A very physical game from both sides. All weekend bodies were being banged around by both clubs. Faceoffs were often met by players hacking at each other’s skates and shoving opponents trying to lean into the attacking zone. Bodies audibly banged against the glass practically every second.

– A terrific weekend for Providence senior Tim Schaller, who scored the game-winning goal on Friday in overtime and followed that up with a pretty backhanded goal on Saturday. With his team trailing in the third period, the senior assistant captain put his team on his back. He was tough on the draw as well, winning 13 of 20.

What I thought

– Providence freshman defenseman John Gilmour impressed me all weekend. Gilmour nearly won the game on Friday in overtime, beating two Merrimack defenseman on a rush and getting a backhand puck on Sam Marotta after circling the last Merrimack defender. This kid’s going to be a good one for the Friars. He isn’t overly huge at 5-11, 180 pounds, but he’s slick. As I just mentioned, he has good speed, skates well and has very good puck skills for a defensemen. He’s on the Friars’ PP unit for a reason. He’s very smooth, both on his feet and with his hands. Nice catch by PC head coach Nate Leaman.

– Merrimack’s Brian Christie potted his first career goal with a power-play goal in the first period. Christie, who has just three points (1-2–3) in 13 games, is starting to catch some fire. His goal was his second point in four games, which isn’t overly impressive, but Christie is starting to show why he was the No. 1 overall pick by Chicago in the USHL Entry Draft two years ago. He’s another guy that skates well and has a high motor. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time in the neutral and defensive zones, and is starting to translate that into more opportunities at the other end.

– Rasmus Tirronen played the best game of his young Merrimack career. Tirronen, who struggled to find consistency at the start of the season, is 2-1-2 in his last five starts with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. Both Tirronen and Marotta have been scrapping off rust while playing important minutes. Tirronen missed all of last season sitting out a year per the NCAA and Marotta spent two seasons backing up Joe Cannata.

What they said

Providence head coach Nate Leaman
“We weren’t ready to play in the first period and that was the difference in the game. They won that period 1-0. We weren’t executing, we were sleepwalking and we were turning pucks over. I mean, give them credit, they got up on us and blocked a lot of shots and their goaltender played outstanding. We were able to get a lot of chances but he came up big for them.”

“We weren’t ready to play, and I’m upset about that. As a group, we are playing a lot of young guys, but you know, we’re trying to learn this lesson that we have to bring it every night and every time we take a step forward we’re getting a little too big for our britches and we’re forgetting what makes us successful. It’s a bad loss at home, and I’m upset about it.”

Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy
“We did some really good things, especially on the forecheck and on the grind. We made them defend a lot and when we’re playing well that’s what we need to do. They did a good job in the third period expanding the zone, making it harder for us to get on them. We were also a bit more passive than we normally are because we didn’t want to get outplayed, so it’s almost like the prevent defense, ‘it prevents you from winning,’ is what they say. We’ve got some work to do in that sense, but I’ll take the blame there.”

On his team blocking shots in the third period, “How bad do you want to win? That really epitomizes Merrimack hockey. That’s how hard you have to play just to have a chance to win. Overall, it was a pretty godo weekend for us. … That’s a good team and to get points in their building is huge.”

Merrimack Soph. forward Josh Myers
On what he saw for the game-winning goal … “John Heffernan made a nice play to get it out of the zone and then they got possession, I kind of put pressure on him, I made him go one way and he lost the puck and I just made a move off his stick and I was able to go in and get a goal out of it. … We all joked about it but they were saying my eyes lit up (when he saw the open space) and that they could see it on the bench, but I love that, getting in footraces for five or ten feet like that.”

On the physical play all weekend … “We talked about it all week. This team is just as physical as we are. It was a big point we were making this weekend, to take hits to make plays, and I thought we did a good job of that tonight, which is why we came out on top.”

What else you should know

– The Warriors don’t play another league game until they travel to Vermont on Jan. 5.

– Providence’s Noel Acciari went a perfect 9-0 on faceoffs. Merrimack’s Vinny Scotti, who went 13-3 on the dot Friday, went 3-12 on Saturday.

– Providence totaled 27 shot attempts in the third period but just 12 made it through to Tirronen. Merrimack blocked a total of 16 shots while the Friars’ skaters blocked seven.

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