The Mack Report

Quick Hits: Lowell-Merrimack Weekend

Lowell Merrimack UML 2-1-14

UMass Lowell swept Merrimack College, 4-2 and 4-0, this weekend in a home-and-home Hockey East series. Below are some quick-hit thoughts on the weekend, as well as a look ahead to a one-game weekend for the Warriors next week against Boston College.

- Saturday especially was a statistical anomaly. Merrimack outshot and out-attempted the River Hawks, and even quality chances (defined as a home-plate shaped area from the tops of the circles, straight to the face-off dots and then angled down to the goal) were relatively even. Yet, the River Hawks outscored the Warriors 4-0. Friday was much more a “what you see is what you get” from a statistical standpoint. The River Hawks dominated the first period, and large stretches of the third, with the Warriors taking control of the second period; the numbers reflected that.

- So looking at the numbers, the Warriors didn’t play all that poorly against Lowell on Saturday, but it just didn’t pass the eye test. Especially Saturday, the puck seemed to be gravitating to the wall like metal to a magnet, and most of those puck battles were won by Lowell players. I wouldn’t say the Warriors were out-worked on Saturday, but they were out-executed, for sure. Even going back to the quality chances, many of Merrimack’s came on the power play.

- Going back to being out-executed, the Warriors seemed to be fighting the puck all night. Breakout passes were hopping over sticks and there were even a few instances of passes back to the point in the offensive zone that were skipping over a defenseman’s stick. In fact, that directly led to Adam Chapie’s penalty shot in the first period. A pass was sent back to Brendan Ellis at the point, but it was bouncing and rolling like a tennis ball. Chapie, going forward at full speed, was able to beat Ellis, who had to turn around from a stopping position, to the puck in the neutral zone.

- Taking a look at the call on that penalty shot, it just wasn’t a penalty shot. Was it hooking? You bet it was. But in no way did Chapie have enough separation to warrant a penalty shot. I’m all in favor of making the call more, but it needs to be made in the correct circumstances, and last night wasn’t it. There needs to be clear separation between the attacking player and the defender, and there just simply wasn’t in this case.

- It’s literally amazing to watch Lowell defend its own net. The picture above doesn’t even do it justice. There are times where four or five skaters, on top of the 6-foot-4 Connor Hellebuyck, are packing things in around the blue paint. The River Hawks defend their net harder than any team I’ve seen all season, and this goes as back to last year as well. They are vicious in that area, and it’s a huge key to their success.

- Back to the officiating, I haven’t been all that critical of the officials this season, because I do think it has gotten better from 2-3 years ago. With that said, last night was probably the worst-officiated game I’ve seen this season. I thought there were a lot of missed calls and even some of the calls that were made had me scratching my head, considering what was allowed for most of the weekend.

- Looking ahead to Boston College, and really looking ahead to the next three games, things get a lot tougher before the Warriors return home for the last four regular season games of the season. Maine and BC are a combined 15-2-0 at home this season. The Warriors, of course, have just one road win all season, coming at Clarkson three weeks ago.