Men's Hockey

10 things to know about Merrimack’s trip to Michigan on Tuesday night

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The Merrimack men’s hockey team completes a three-game road trip on Tuesday night at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor against the University of Michigan.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the Tuesday-night faceoff …

1) The first meeting between Merrimack and Michigan was in Alaska

Merrimack and Michigan will be meeting for the fifth time and the Wolverines are perfect (4-0) in the series thus far. The first meeting between the two programs was in 2000 at the Alaska Anchorage tournament, which the Wolverines won 4-2. Michigan also swept a series at Yost Ice Arena in 2002.

The last time Merrimack met Michigan was Oct. 14, 2005. The Wolverines rolled past the Warriors 9-2 on a Sunday afternoon after jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first period. The game was the second of a two-game midwest trip for the Warriors, who beat Bowling Green, 3-2, on Friday night before having Saturday off due to Michigan football hosting Penn State. The loss as Michigan was also former head coach Mark Dennehy’s second game behind the Merrimack bench. Michigan outshot Merrimack 44-30 and the Warriors had goals from John Goebel and Hank Carisio. With the game out of hand early, all three Merrimack goaltenders — Jim Healey, Frank McLaughlin and Patrick Watson — saw time.

2) Homecoming for Babcock, Irvine and Coomes

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Michael Babcock, Logan Coomes and Tyler Irvine, who are all from the Wolverine state. Chase Gresock’s hometown (Powell, Ohio) is only about a three-hour drive to Ann Arbor and there are several Warriors from Ontario whose hometowns are within driving distance. Jackson Bales is from Oakville, Ontario, about a four-hour drive, and Johnathan Kovacevic is from Grimsby, which is a little more than four hours from Ann Arbor.

“I grew up about 20 minutes from there and it’s where the college hockey dream kind of started for me,” said Merrimack captain Michael Babcock. “It will be a fun full-circle moment for me, and we have a lot of guys who are from that area so there will be a lot of family and friends at the game. But once the game starts, it’s just another game and we want to go out and win a hockey game. It will be the same thing once the puck drops.”

3) Dinner with family

Merrimack play-by-play voice John Leahy mentioned on the team’s broadcast Saturday night that the Warriors will spend Monday night at Tyler Irvine’s home, as the Irvine family is hosting the Warriors for a team meal. Irvine is from Livonia, Mich., which is also the hometown of former Merrimack forward Nick Pomponio. On Merrimack’s last trip to Michigan in 2005, the Pomponio family hosted the Warriors for a team meal on Saturday night prior to the game at Michigan on Sunday.

4) Michigan just played outdoors at Notre Dame Stadium

Michigan and Notre Dame met on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium in front of a reported crowd of 23,422 fans. The Wolverines jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. Dakota Raabe had a goal and an assist for the Wolverines while Nick Pastujov finished with a pair of assists. Joseph Cecconi, Nolan Moyle and Will Lockwood also scored for the Wolverines. Goaltender Hayden Lavigne stopped 30 shots.

5) Michigan’s win over Notre Dame snapped a nine-game winless streak

Michigan was winless in nine games as they walked into Notre Dame Stadium, but the majority of those games were tied (0-3-6). Michigan had a pair of ties against Wisconsin and Michigan State as well as ties against Minnesota and Michigan Tech.

6) Quinn Hughes is one of the best players in the nation

Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, a sophomore, is one of the top players in the country. Hughes will be returning to the Wolverines after spending the bulk of the last month with Team USA at the World Junior Championship. Hughes was selected No. 7 overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 NHL Draft and despite missing three games while at the tournament and being a defenseman, Hughes still leads the Wolverines in scoring with 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 17 games.

Hughes’ brother, Jack, is currently with the U.S. NTDP and is the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft. Quinn Hughes has appeared in 54 games for Michgan through his first two seasons and has 49 points (8 goals, 41 assists).

Center Josh Norris is also returning to Michigan after playing for Team USA. Norris, who has again missed the same three games as Hughes, is second on the team with 19 points and is tied for the team lead with 10 goals.

At the WJC, where Team USA took home silver, Norris had six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in seven games while Hughes was limited to just a pair of assists.

7) Pantano is one shutout away from a Merrimack record

Craig Pantano posted his fourth shutout of the season on Saturday night at Northeastern, which tied him for second among all goaltenders in the nation in total shutouts this season. Pantano is also tied with Jim Hrivnak for the Merrimack single-season shutout record. Hrivnak had four shutouts in 1987-88 and 1988-89. Hrivnak, who went on to play for the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues, was inducted into the Merrimack Hall of Fame last year.

8) Yost Ice Arena was originally built as a field house

The Michigan hockey team has played at Yost Ice Arena since 1973, but the building itself opened in 1924 as a field house. It was the home of Michigan’s basketball programs until 1967 and it was converted to a rink in 1973. In 2017, the rink inside the building was named and dedicated for longtime head coach Red Berenson.

Yost underwent a $16 million renovation in 2012 that included significant upgrades to the arena, which now sits about 6,000 fans for hockey.

9) Mel Pearson was a longtime assistant under Red Berenson

Red Berenson coached Michigan for 33 years before retiring in 2017. Mel Pearson returned to Michigan at that point to take over the program.

Pearson, 59, was an assistant coach under Berenson from 1988-2011 before leaving the program to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Michigan Tech. Pearson turned around the Tech program and then upon returning to Michigan, led the Wolverines back to the Frozen Four in just his first season.

Pearson inherited a Michigan team that went 13-19-3 in 2016-17 and last season the Wolverines improved to 22-15-3, falling to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinals.

10) Michigan will not make a return trip to Lawler Arena

In recent years, more and more big programs have shown the willingness to make return trips to Lawler Arena, but this year’s game at Yost Ice Arena is scheduled to be a one-off, with no return trip for the Wolverines.

Merrimack hosted Denver and Colorado College this season while Wisconsin came in last season and is scheduled to make another appearance at Lawler Arena next year. Future non-conference home opponents include Minnesota Duluth and Miami.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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