North Andover, Mass.-- Although the final score might not have ended the way they'd have hoped, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy and senior Rhett Bly took away positives and some things that needed work from Sunday's exhibition game against McGill University.
Both coach and player described the transition from summer league mentality to Hockey East action. "In summer league there's a minimum two toedrags. Here we have a maximum of zero toe drags in Hockey East," joked Dennehy.
"We weren't really taking care of the puck too well. We were still in summer league mode, but it was good to get in there and get in some game action," said Bly. "We get to look at the video and kind of go to work on that," added the Regina, Saskatchewan native.
Merrimack and its counterparts from north of the border skated to a 1-1 deadlock in front of 2,162 at Lawler Arena. It was the second consecutive tie against a Hockey East foe for the Redmen who forced a draw with #1 UMass-Lowell on Saturday.
"It's exactly what you want out of an exhibition game. I thought [McGill] was a really good team as evidenced by them tying the number one team in the country in their barn. I thought we did some good things. When we played with tempo, we were effective. I thought we had some chances we might want back, although I don't want to take anything away from their goaltender. He played pretty well," said Dennehy.
Junior defenseman Dan Kolomatis got the Warriors on the board first with a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point. Bly had planted himself in front of the net screening McGill goaltender Jacob Chouinard. The score, coming with just 1:06 to play in the opening period, was set up by defenseman Craig Wyszomirski and forward Justin Hussar.
The Warriors were able to generate some good scoring chances, but much like last season, had trouble converting. Unable to extend its lead would prove costly for Merrimack, as McGill would tie the score with just fewer than five minutes to play in regulation.
McGill defenseman Jan Kaminsky evened the score with a bullet of a slap shot that actually went right through the net. Action continued for a few seconds until the referees blew the play dead so that they could take a look on video replay.
Regulation would end with the score still knotted at one. The overtime period was relatively uneventful, including a power play the Warriors couldn't take advantage of in the final minute.
Sam Marotta and Rasmus Tirronen split goaltending duties on the day, as is customary in exhibition games. Marotta, who won the starting job midway through last season, stopped all 12 shots he faced. Tirronen, a junior from Finland, made eight saves on nine shots.
Bly addressed the concern that his team needs to be better at finishing chances. "Around the net is where goals are scored. The majority of goals are scored right around the crease. The more we can get bodies and pucks [to the net] the better off we will be. Last year we were a little too soft in that area. This year it is going to be a personal point of pride that we all get there and get gritty in that area."
Merrimack heads to the mile high state to face NCHC powerhouse Denver University for a pair next weekend before returning home for a two-game set with Mercyhurst.
Notes: Merrimack senior defenseman Brendan Ellis and sophomore forward Brian Christie were both scratches with what was described as minor injuries... The Warriors were playing in their renovated building for the first time. Additional work was done over the summer to add luxury boxes in back of the net Merrimack shoots on for the first and third periods. A new lobby, campus bookstore and a Dunkin Donuts are all things fans will notice the first time they trek to Lawler Arena this winter. The recent renovations were part of an effort between the school and the Middlesex Islanders that saw the completion of a practice rink next to the existing rink, as well as a state of the art sports medicine facility and a larger weight room for student-athletes.
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Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.