Hockey Opens 2012-13 Season at #5 Union; Listen Live on WGAM

MERRIMACK COLLEGE HOCKEY

Game #1 at #5 Union College, Saturday, October 6, 2012, 7 p.m. Messa Rink

TV: None; Radio: WGAM 900 and 1250 AM

Listen Online / Listen on WGAM Smart Phone App / Follow / Game Notes (.pdf) / Eagle Tribune preview

Tonight's Matchup: Merrimack opens the 2012-13 campaign with four straight games away from North Andover beginning with Frozen Four finalist and ECAC Champion Union College.

Lifetime vs. Union: Merrimack is 19-7-3 lifetime against Union, 7-4-1 all-time at Messa Rink. The Dutchmen defeated the Warriors 3-1 last season at Lawler Arena.

Last Season vs. Union (Union won series 1-0-0):
(12/17/11, @ MC, Union, W, 3-1): Shawn Bates scored but Merrimack suffered its first non-conference home loss since October 24, 2006 (13 games) as Union scored two power play goals and outshot Merrimack 34-20 for the 3-1 road victory.

Drop the Puck
Under eighth-year head coach Mark Dennehy, Merrimack opens the 2012-13 season tonight. Picked eighth in the Hockey East preseason coaches poll, Merrimack is coming off its two most successful seasons in its Division I history.

Quick Glance at 2011-12
Merrimack started the season 9-0-1, earning a #1 ranking for the first time ever for two weeks in November. They were the last team to lose in the country and the first to enter December unbeaten in 15 years. However, they struggled to score all year (8th in Hockey East) and finished the season 9-12-6 after the hot start, losing to Maine in the Hockey East Quarterfinals in three games as the fifth seed. Merrimack was ranked all season for the first time in school history.

For Openers
Merrimack is 7-2-2 in its last 11 openers. In last season's opener, Merrimack earned its first win in Orono in 12 years, defeating Maine 2-1. The Warriors are 2-1-1 in their last four openers.

Goal Scorers Wanted
Not only did Merrimack struggle to score last season (they were 18-2-4 when scoring two or more goals), four of the top five scorers from last season have graduated. Merrimack returns Mike Collins (10 goals, 25 points), Jordan Heywood (15 assists, 19 points), Shawn Bates (6 goals, 17 points), Connor Toomey (7 goals, 16 points) and Josh Myers (8 points in 20 games) to lead the way up front. Four of Merrimack's top five defenders from last year return.

First of Two with Union
Strangely, Merrimack will play Union twice this season in different venues, marking the first time they will play a non-conference team twice in separate venues in the same season since playing Dartmouth on 12/15/01 and 12/28/01. The Warriors will next battle the Dutchmen at the Catamount Cup on December 29 at Vermont.

Garnering National Votes
After being nationally ranked for an entire season for the first time ever in 2011-12, Merrimack received seven votes in the USA Today poll and 43 votes in the USCHO poll.

Young but Seasoned
Of Merrimack's 27 players, 16 are freshmen or sophomores, while only four are seniors. Eight of nine sophomores played in the playoffs last season and will take on bigger roles in 2012-13.

The Goaltending Dilemma
The Warriors will hand the goaltending duties to Sam Marotta and Rasmus Tirronen this year after All-American goaltender Joe Cannata graduated. Marotta, a junior, has one career start, a 5-0 shutout against UConn last year, while Tironnen, a sophomore who hails from Finland, did not play last year due to an eligibility issue. Marotta has stopped 86 of 88 shots in his career.

Collins Looked Upon as a Junior
Mike Collins is Merrimack's leading returning scorer after tallying 10 goals and 25 points last year, but just 3 were even-strength goals. Collins will be looked upon to return to his freshman form where he led the league in points among freshmen and was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team for his efforts.

12 Games Televised; 7 Nationally, Most in Hockey East
Merrimack will have 12 games, one-third of its schedule, televised this year, most in school history. The Warriors will have eight home games televised and seven nationally televised games, most in Hockey East. Merrimack has teamed up with WBIN locally and Fox College Sports nationally to televise four games live from Lawler beginning November 9 against BU. Merrimack will be on NESN twice at home and on CBS Sports Network three times for the first time ever. Eight of the final 11 regular season games will be televised.

Seven Newcomers
The Warriors welcome seven freshmen to the roster, five forwards and two defensemen. Ben Bahe and Brian Christie played together for Topeka (NAHL), while Justin Hussar, John Gustafsson, Matt Cronin, Vinny Scotti and Sean Robertson round out the talented and deep class of 2016.

Starting Early
Merrimack will play the first non-conference game in Hockey East (tonight) and will be a part of the first league game, October 10 against Northeastern.

Heywood 76-for-76
Jordan Heywood has played in all 76 games in his two seasons at Merrimack.

Bigos Big Penalty Numbers
Kyle Bigos enters this season with 346 career penalty minutes after picking up 125 last season. Bigos needs 54 more for the program's all-time record of 400, set by Tom Costa from 1992-96.

Non-Conference Recap
Merrimack went 4-1-2 in non-conference games last year, losing only to Union. They are 10-1-3 over the last two years and 23-7-5 in their last 35 games.

2012-13 Schedule at a Glance
Merrimack's 2012-13 schedule is highlighted by 19 home games, beginning October 26 and 27 against Vermont following four games away from Lawler. The Warriors travel to Alaska on 10/19-20 for the Alaska Goal Rush. Colgate and Harvard headline the non-conference home schedule. Due to television coverage, Merrimack will play on three consecutive Sunday afternoons from February 17-March 3 and will actually have four straight weekend afternoon games from 2/9-3/3. They will also take on UNH at the Verizon Wireless Arena on January 26 at 5 p.m.

Three Straight with Maine
Merrimack and Maine will renew their rivalry with three games in an eight-day span, beginning 1/12 at Lawler and ending 1/18-19 at Alfond. The teams have met in each of the last two Hockey East Quarterfinals, with each team winning once.

Western Canada Pipeline
Nine of Merrimack's players hail from Western Canada.

Senior Class Needs 10 Wins to Become Most Successful Class in D1 History
The senior class of Kyle Bigos, Nick Drew, Brandon Brodhag and John Heffernan needs ten wins to supplant last year's class as the winningest class in Merrimack's Division I history. The class of 2013 could become the first class to make the playoffs in each of its four seasons since Hockey East expanded from eight teams. They were a part of a team that won a school-record 25 games, advanced to its first-ever HEA Championship, was selected to its first-ever NCAA Tournament since joining HEA and earned the program's first-ever #1 ranking.

Smallest Division I School in College Hockey
With an enrollment of 2,312, Merrimack has the smallest enrollment of any Division I college hockey school.

2011-12 Trends: Strong on Saturdays
Merrimack was 9-3-4 on Saturday and 8-2-3 in the 2nd game of back-to-backs.

2011-12 Trends: First Period Normally Dictates Result
Merrimack was 14-2-5 when scoring first and 9-1-4 when leading after one.

2011-12 Trends: First to Three?
Merrimack scored more than two goals in 7 games since Jan. 1 and was 7-0 in those games. In the other 13, they were 0-9-4. They were 18-2-4 when scoring two or more goals.

2011-12 Trends: Power Play Strong in Wins
The power play scored at least a goal in 16 of 18 wins.

2011-12 Trends: There's No Place Like Home
With a 9-5-3 record at home last year, Merrimack is 35-10-5 since the start of 2009-10 at Lawler.

2011-12 Trends: Lawler Sellouts
Merrimack has sold out 20 of its last 22 home games.

Sudden Death Success
Merrimack is 7-1-11 in OT in its last 19 regular season OT games dating back to the start of 2010-11.

Smallest School Reached the Top
Merrimack, the smallest school in Div. I hockey, ascended to the top of the polls for the first time ever on November 21, 2011 and held that spot for two weeks.

First Team Unbeaten Entering December in 15 Years
Last season, Merrimack was the nation's last remaining undefeated team and the first team to enter December without a loss since the 1992-93 Maine team that went 42-1-2.

Captains
Merrimack will have three defenders wear letters this season, with junior Jordan Heywood serving as captain, and senior Kyle Bigos and junior Brendan Ellis as the assistant captains.

Merrimack in 40+ Save Performances
Incredibly, over the last four seasons, Merrimack is 4-2-3 when its goaltender stops 40 or more shots. Joe Cannata had two 40+ save performances in 2011-12.

Merrimack and WBIN Team Up
Merrimack, Pack Network, and WBIN-TV reached an agreement to broadcast four hockey games live from Lawler Rink for the second straight season. Fox College Sports will also broadcast these four games nationally. All home games not televised by NESN or CBS will air online at merrimackathletics.com with Pack Network producing the games in high definition and providing postgame highlights.

Merrimack Inks Radio Deal with WGAM
Merrimack has teamed up with WGAM the Game, an ESPN radio affliate to broadcast all games live on 900 and 1250 AM and online at wgamradio.com. WGAM will have weekly Merrimack features during its 4-6 pm time slot, interviewing players and coaches of the team. Fans should download the free WGAM app to listen on their phone.  John Leahy and Mike Machnik return to call all Merrimack games live.

Volpe Athletic Center Expansion Project Underway
Construction on the 83,000 square foot Volpe Athletic Center Expansion is underway. As part of the project, Merrimack will add a second ice sheet, four new luxury boxes, a 5,000 square foot Center for Sports Medicine, a 8,000 square foot weight room, new locker rooms and offices, and a new lobby, ticket office and pro shop. The expansion project is expected to be completed before the 2013-14 academic year.

Merrimack Ranked Eighth in HEA Preseason Poll
The Warriors were ranked eighth in the Hockey East Preseason Poll.
Rank    Team (1st place votes)        Pts
1.    Boston College (9)        90
2.     UMass Lowell         74
3.    Boston University        73
4.    New Hampshire (1)        63
5.    Maine            56
6.    Northeastern        44
    Providence            44
8.    Merrimack            38
9.    Massachusetts        35
10.    Vermont            23

Ranked Fourth in HEWBA Preseason Poll
The Warriors earned the #7 preseason ranking in the Hockey East Broadcasters and Writers Media poll.
Rank    Team (1st place votes)        Pts
1.    Boston College (21)        243
2.     UMass Lowell (3)        219
3.    Boston University        189
4.    New Hampshire         166
5.    Providence            141
6.    Maine (1)            137
7.    Merrimack            96
8.    Northeastern        87
9.    Massachusetts        70
10.    Vermont            27