EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

March 17, 2010

Timberlane hockey coach Merrick steps down

After a five-year tenure that included the first state title in program history, 2009 Eagle-Tribune hockey Coach of the Year Andrew Merrick has stepped down at Timberlane.

"It certainly wasn't an easy decision," said Merrick. "I love coaching. I love the kids and love the program, but I felt like it was the right time to step away and concentrate on my family."

The Owls closed out their season last Wednesday with a 3-2 loss to top-seeded Bow in the New Hampshire Division 2 semifinals.

"Andrew has done a great job for us," said Timberlane athletic director Angelo Fantasia. "He has his reasons for leaving, but we are very proud of him and very happy he gave us all that he did."

Merrick was just 27 with only a season of coaching experience in junior hockey when he was hired prior to the 2005-06 season. And the Syosset, N.Y., native and Salem resident inherited a slumping program.

After managing an impressive 21-13-2 mark in their first two years as a varsity program (2000-02), the Owls had fallen on hard times. They finished 14-42 over the next three seasons.

"When I got here the team was struggling for an identity," said Merrick. "Losing had become acceptable. We addressed that, and a lot of great players helped that cause."

After a rocky first season (7-13), Merrick's Owls turned it around.

Last season, the Owls delivered a season for the ages, going a school-record 20-4 and beating Oyster River 3-2 in the Division 2 title game. The Owls followed that up with a 14-7-2 mark this season, with a fourth straight trip to the semis.

But, during this season, Merrick began to consider leaving his post.

"Probably in the middle of the year I started thinking this could be my last year," he said. "I was always year-to-year, and I wanted to keep it to myself and see if anything changed. Things became very hectic at work and with my children."

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