Growing pains; penalties haunt Tomahawks against Bow

By TOM KING
Staff Writer

MANCHESTER – The best advice Merrimack High School hockey coach Matt Davis has for his team this young season is simple: The box is bad.

The penalty box, that is.

The Tomahawks’ fell to 0-3 in Division II after giving up four power -play goals in a 6-0 loss to Bow on Jan. 4 at West Side Arena.

"The power play’s been a constant struggle," Merrimack coach Matt Davis said. "If we play 5 on 5, we’re a decent team. But as soon as we start killing penalties, it runs out the energy on the bench, and it also runs out on the ice. You don’t see a lot of good things happening.

"One even-strength goal, if we play even strength the entire game, it probably evens out."

But that wasn’t the case. Bow, leading 1-0 after one on Brody Call’s unassisted even strength goal, pumped in four in the second, three with the man advantage. The killer was a boarding penalty to Merrimack’s Stephen Licata at 11:21, which in high school is an automatic five minute major.

Bow took advantage with power -play goals from Austin Scarinza and Brandon Tibbetts to take a 5-0 lead after two. Earlier in the period (7:08), Chris Mead gave the Falcons (4-1) a 3-0 lead with another
power play score.

Bow assistant coach Corey Laroche had tinkered with the power play earlier at the request of head man Tim Walsh, and the results spoke for themselves.

"He went over it with the guys on the board in practice, and get Chris Mead involved more and he set the tone right away," Walsh said. "But that’s why we preach on taking penalties. A five-minute major is hard to kill off. We’ve got a group of older guys that can play and take advantage of that."

In fact, special teams played an even bigger role as the Tomahawks went 0 for 3 on their own power play and gave up a shorthanded goal to boot. That score, by Doug Champagne (he also had two assists) came at 1:44 of the second period and put the Falcons up 2-0, setting a tone.

"I feel like it did,"Walsh said. "When you get a shorthanded goal, some power play goals and the extended power play, it really kind of changes the whole game."

"If you can’t score on a power play, you’re in a tough spot," Davis said.

It didn’t help Merrimack that down 2-0, the ‘Hawks’ Owen O’Brien had an apparent goal disallowed.

"I think a goal would’ve really helped with momentum and kind of given us some confidence," Davis said. "(The officials’) explanation was they were out of position, so they couldn’t make the confident call it was a goal."

O’Brien was stopped on a breakaway by Bow goalie Nathan Carrier (12 saves) early in the third period, but by that point it mattered little. Bow’s Austin Beaudette picked up another power play goal, with Colin Tracy getting his second assist, early in the third to click on running time.

It’s early, but what does Davis see down the road?

"In all honesty, I think we have a lot of talent, a lot of speed and strength when it comes to certain positions," he said. "But what I think we need to work on, besides the special teams, is also just getting shots on net. Every game we’ve had low shots on net.

And on Wednesday, the ‘Hawks were boxed in.