Merrill hockey opens with convincing win over Hatchets

Before the season hockey opener at the MARC Friday night, MHS coach Chase Nelson was asked by a Tomahawk radio announcer how he saw the game ahead, and he said he had no idea what to expect out of either team.
What his Bluejays ended up doing was assembling what Nelson called one of the largest margins of victory in the history of the program as they handed the Hatchets a 9-1 loss.
“This was a good win for these kids,” Nelson said. “And to do it against a rival in Tomahawk makes it feel even better.”
After both teams got the feel of each other for the first 9 minutes, Merrill quickly got on the board when Brian Root blasted an unassisted shot from point blank range at 9:39 into the game. Nick Hoffmann scored at 12:45 off assists from Austin Bergener and Joe Ladewig and Juuso Valanen scored the first of two goals at 14:57 on a power play off an assist from Dylan Heller. 
“We did some good things tonight but there are also plenty of things that we need to get better at before our next game. I felt that our forecheck was non-existent at times and also our defensive zone was pretty sloppy most of the night,” Nelson said.
Bryce Swiechowski got things going in the second period with an unassisted goal at 1:30 on a power play. Ben Brown scored at 3:10 off an assist from Burgener and Heller and the Bluejays were in the zone from there as they scored five goals to Tomahawk’s one in the second period. Nick Hoffman scored at 7:19, Heller at 8:52 and again at 9:19. 
Tomahawk got their only score of the night at 8:44 in the second when Jacob Panzer took a pass from Cole Hoeppner and Kevin Bolder and put it in the net.
Valanen scored the lone goal in the third at 9:10.
Nelson was happy with the performance of his entire team in the win.
“Both Carlo Corbani and Stephen Simon played well in net; combining for 32 saves on 33 shots. We had three players get their first career high school goals tonight – Juuso Valtanen (2), Brian Root, and Ben Brown. Austin Burgener had a playmaker (3 assists) in his first career high school game,” Nelson said.  “Nick Hoffmann and Dylan Heller both had their names on the scoresheet a lot, which they will continue to do all year. We were able to skate three lines all night, and we didn’t seem to miss a beat.”
The Bluejays host Medford on Dec. 3 in their next game.

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