Merrimack cruises to 8-2 win in home finale

MANCHESTER – And now they will wait.

Then they’ll play a couple of games, and then wait even longer.

That’s basically the story of the Merrimack High School boys ice hockey team’s next three weeks, and that’s why Wednesday’s 8-2 win over Somersworth Coe-Brown in their regular season home finale at West Side Arena was so important.

"I don’t know what happened," Merrimack coach Matt Davis said of a schedule that has the 11-3-2 Tomahawks off until next Wednesday and Thursday, and then possibly off for more than two weeks to follow if they get a first-round bye in the Division II tournament. "I think we have to get creative and maintain focus and I’ll have to motivate them in different ways."

The Tomahawks, unbeaten in their last 10 games, regained any early lost focus in the second period, during which they scored five goals to take a commanding 6-1 lead. Yes, their seniors were honored prior to the game, but none more deserving than Ryan Downie, who had his third hat trick of the season along with two assists for a five-point afternoon.

"He’s a good player, he works hard, and he’s got a great shot," Davis said. "He’s an excellent player, a smart player, a great skater and he works hard. And that’s a very productive line."

The visitors (4-11) actually took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Aidan Anderson 3:05 into the game but Kyle Feeney got the equalizer on the power play at 13:34 of the period, assisted by Downie and Tyler Brewster.

The Tomahawks owned the second period. John Tiano scored the first of his two goals on a shot from just outside the left faceoff circle, an unassisted goal just 1:36 in to put the ‘Hawks up for good at 2-1.

It became a shooting gallery on Bearcats goalie Hunter Bouchard (33 saves). Jeff Gerhard scored the first of his pair at 4:24, assisted by Kyle Feeney, making it 3-1.Then it was Tiano’s turn again (Greg Bourque assist), followed by two Downie from Aaron Tupper goals to make it 6-1.

That was the difference in the game, the second period," Somersworth-Coe-Brown coach Bryant Lausberg said. "We didn’t put the body on them enough, we let them stickhandle right through us.

"I expect this team, Merrimack, to be there in the end. I do believe they’ll be a final four team, or in the final. They definitely had the skill and the goaltending to do it."

They can live up to those expectations if they remove distractions, Davis said, which he blamed for the team’s slow start Wednesday.

"With it being Senior Night, I think there were a few mental things going on, so it’s like a diesel engine, takes awhile to get going," he said. "And (the Bearcats) came out flying."

But weren’t able to match up as the ‘Hawks skated well. Downie and Gerhard both scored in the third while Somersworth’s Ryan Bailey slipped the ‘Cats’ second by ‘Hawks goalie Greg Amato (22 stops).

Now it’s at Pembroke-Campbell and Oyster River next week, and if they finish in the top six in Division II, the ‘Hawks may not play until a potential quarterfinal on March 12. That’s just two games in over three weeks, but Davis said it may work to the Tomahawks’ advantage.

"What happens is sometimes at the end of the year you get teams fighting for position, and in the meantime you get kids that get hurt," Davis said. "So it’s actually a nice little break period when we can lick our wounds.

"We started out at the beginning of the year and I told them we have a very good team, we just have to make sure we maintain focus. … Everybody did very well."

On that night, it was Downie Time. But in the next few weeks, the down time awaits.