October 9, 2012

#19 Hockey Opens Conference Play at Northeastern Wednesday

MERRIMACK COLLEGE HOCKEY

Game #2 at Northeastern University, Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 7 p.m.

TV: None; Radio: WGAM 900 and 1250 AM, online at wgamradio.com

Follow / Game Notes (.pdf)

Tonight's Matchup: After a season-opening 4-1 win at #5 Union College, Merrimack opens the 2012-13 Hockey East schedule against Northeastern Wednesday.

Lifetime vs. Northeastern: Merrimack is 36-47-10 lifetime but is 4-1-1 in its last six against the Huskies. Merrimack has won the last three straight at Matthews Arena.

Last Season vs. Northeastern (Merrimack won series 2-0-1):
MC, W, 4-1 (10/21/11): Kyle Bigos and Ryan Flanigan each had a goal and an assist as Merrimack downed NU 4-1 in front of a sold out crowd at Lawler Arena.
MC, T, 1-1 (11/4/11): Rhett Bly scored, but Chris Rawlings made 34 saves for NU to secure the 1-1 tie. Joe Cannata made 30 saves, 14 in the third for the Warriors at Lawler.
MC, W, 3-2 (OT) (11/5/11): Mike Collins scored two power play goals and Ryan Flanigan sealed the OT win with a short-handed breakaway, improving the Warriors to 7-0-1 to start last year.

Marotta, Myers Lead Merrimack to Season-Opening 4-1 Win at Union
Behind 33 saves from Sam Marotta and two goals from Josh Myers, Merrimack opened its season with a win, upsetting #5 Union 4-1 at Messa Rink. In his second career start, Marotta made 16 first-period stops, while Myers picked up his first career two-goal game. Myers was named the Hockey East Player of the Week, while Marotta was honored as the HEA Defensive Player of the Week.

First Top-5 Road Win Under Dennehy
Merrimack's 4-1 win over Union was the first on the road against a team ranked in the top five nationally under Mark Dennehy and was the first since they beat UNH in Durham on December 13, 2003. Merrimack's last win against a team ranked in the top five was against then second-ranked BC at Lawler Arena on October 30, 2010. Merrimack also snapped Union's 11-game unbeaten streak at home (9-0-2) dating back to November 12, 2011 against Yale.

Back in the Polls
Following the win at Union, Merrimack is ranked 19th nationally. The Warriors were ranked for the entire 2011-12 season but were not ranked in this season's preseason polls.

Heffernan-Bates-Myers Line Leads the Way
The line of John Heffernan, Shawn Bates and Josh Myers led the way, combining for six points in the third period, leading Merrimack to the victory at Union.

Bly Picks Up Where He Left Off
After netting his first career two-goal game in game two of the 2011-12 HEA Quarterfinals at Maine, Rhett Bly picked up here he left off, scoring the first goal of the season, 4:04 into the first. Bly was also dominant in the circle, winning 15 of 23 faceoffs.

Defensemen Stay Offensive
Merrimack's defense chipped in with four assists at Union as Brendan Ellis, Jordan Heywood, Dan Kolomatis and Tom McCarthy each picked up a helper. Last year, Merrimack's defense ranked among the nation's best in scoring. Playing most of the game with just five defensemen, the Warriors blocked 13 shots, three by Mike Wills and killed five Union power plays.

90 for Dennehy
The win at Union was the 90th of head coach Mark Dennehy's career.

For Openers
Merrimack improved to 8-2-2 in its last 12 openers. In last season's opener, Merrimack earned its first win in Orono in 12 years, defeating Maine 2-1. The Warriors are 3-1-1 in their last five openers.

Putting the Huskies Down Early
For the second straight year, Merrimack and Northeastern will finish their season series in the first week of November. Merrimack went 2-0-1 last year against NU.

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.

Young but Seasoned, Hussar Debuts
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. On opening night, Dennehy featured a veteran lineup as every upperclassman dressed. Just one freshman, Justin Hussar, debuted.

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 last season's top five scorers 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.

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, entered this season with 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 stopped 86 of 88 shots in his first two years.

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.

Number Changes
Three Merrimack forwards changed numbers this season. John Heffernan switched from 8 to 16. Shawn Bates went from 17 to 9 and Connor Toomey went from 25 to 11.

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.

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.

Heywood 77-for-77
Jordan Heywood has played in all 77 games in his three 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.

Senior Class Needs 9 Wins to Become Most Successful Class in D1 History
The senior class of Kyle Bigos, Nick Drew, Brandon Brodhag and John Heffernan needs nine 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.

Non-Conference Recap
Merrimack went 4-1-2 in non-conference games last year, losing only to Union. Dating back to the start of 2010-11, they are 11-1-3 and 24-7-5 in their last 36 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.

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 Saturdays 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 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 Seventh 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