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Flashback (8 yrs.): Merrimack opens renovated Lawler by pounding UConn

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Exclusively for our VIP supporters, The Mack Report will bring you bi-weekly Flashback posts, where we take a trip in Doc Brown’s time machine and see what we were covering here at TMR four, eight and 12 years ago.

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The Welby-Healey theorem

The goaltending of Andrew Braithwaite and Joe Cannata improved exponentially over the course of last season.

Both netminders credited the addition of coach Jim Healey, a 2007 grad and former ‘Mack goalie, with helping to sharpen their games.

Healey was added to the staff on Jan. 26th.

The numbers show the improvement. Before Healey’s addition to the staff, the duo combined for numbers of 8-13-0, 3.43, .888. After Healey’s addition, the Warriors’ tandem shaved almost a full goal off their GAA, going 8-6-2 with a 2.52 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Healey is a product of another grad’s coaching, Tom Welby, who was with Mark Dennehy’s staff from 2005 to 2009. During his time as goalie coach, the Warriors set a program-low mark for GAA in a season.

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Merrimack 7, UConn 1

Merrimack College opened a renovated J. Thom Lawler Arena in style, pounding UConn 7-1 on Saturday night in front of 2,501 fans and 634 students.

The Warriors had goals from each of their scoring lines, three of which potted a pair.

Joe Cannata stopped 17 of 18 shots before giving way to Sam Marotta, who stopped all seven shots he faced in his first collegiate action.

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Merrimack-UConn: Postgame Reax

The Big Shows

1. Joe Cucci
A goal and an assist for the senior but more impressively, the playmaker put six shots on net and delivered some physicality when the Warriors needed a spark in the first period. He also won a game-high 14 draws.

2. Stephane Da Costa
Two goals for the Parisian Warrior. Made something out of nothing on his first goal. He tried to slide a pass to Brandon Brodhag but it was blocked and ended up back on his stick. He responded by lifting a backhander over Garrett Bartus’ shoulder, glove side.

3. Rhett Bly
Actually, Bly’s entire line played well as all three made their collegiate debuts (he skated between Mike Collins and Shawn Bates). Bly’s second-period goal was the first of his career.

Highlights

Postgame Pressers

Note: Postgame pressers are coming soon. You’ll hear from …
Mark Dennehy – Merrimack head coach
Joe Cannata – Merrimack Jr. goalie
Rhett Bly – Merrimack Fr. forward
Chris Barton – Merrimack Sr. forward
Stephane Da Costa – Merrimack So. forward

WarriorHockey Podcasts

Warrior analyst Mike Machnik brings us the following podcasts:
Mark Dennehy
Rhett Bly
Joe Cucci
Stephane Da Costa

The Difference Maker

Merrimack was doing too much reacting in the first period and not enough initiating. The Warriors remedied that problem in the final 40 minutes, taking the play to the Huskies and tilting the ice. The score pretty much sums it up — the Warriors were dominant in every phase of the game in the final two periods.

As the game progressed – especially in the second period – the Warriors breakout was much better and goes back to what I mentioned initially when I say initiating the play instead of reacting to it.

Quick Hits

– Merrimack scored seven goals; the most in a game under Mark Dennehy as head coach.

-Jordan Heywood had another fantastic game on defense. He’s a smart player. There isn’t a lot of flash and sizzle on the defensive side of the puck, but Heywood gets the job done. He doesn’t look like a freshman out there.

– It will go unnoticed with a seven-goal outburst, but Merrimack’s defense as a whole – including goaltender Joe Cannata – was spectacular. The Warriors got sticks on sticks and broke up a lot of plays. Of course, the blueliners were physical, too. Not one defenseman had a poor game. Outside of the first 7-10 minutes, UConn barely gained the zone.

– The Warriors broke loose of UConn’s forecheck all night. The Huskies had no answer.

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On Deck: Vermont Catamounts (0-1-1)

Vermont will be looking for its first win when the Warriors travel north to Burlington, Vt. on Saturday night.

The Catamounts had the weekend off this week; they earned a tie and picked up a loss against Denver on the opening weekend of the season.

Vermont netted four goals that weekend (5-3 loss, 1-1 tie) and senior Wahsontiio Stacey had three of them. Rob Madore, the Catamounts’ netminder, played both games, finishing with a 2.42 GAA and .896 save percentage.

Vermont’s power play struggled, converting just once in 10 changes against the Pioneers.

The Catamounts defense is huge, with six of seven defenders measuring 6-foot-2 or taller. Kyle Medvec comes in the tallest at 6-foot-6. Freshman Nick Bruneteau is the shortest at 5-foot-10.

The last time Merrimack traveled to Vermont the Warriors earned three of four points in a weekend series last February, which helped catapult the Warriors into the Hockey East playoffs.

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More highlights from the UConn Game

October 18, 20101 comment

These video highlights come courtesy of my E-T colleague John Gregory, a longtime Merrimack supporter.

Stephane Da Costa pots his first goal of the game. After an attempted pass to Brandon Brodhag got blocked back onto his stick, Da Costa goes to the backhand for the tally.

Mike Collins springs Rhett Bly for his first collegiate goal after a nifty move to beat a defender.

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Kevin Sneddon Chats UVM Hockey

I spoke with Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon about this weekend’s game with Merrimack at the Gutterson Field House in Vermont (tomorrow, 7 p.m.). The following is a transcript of that conversation:

Your team had last weekend off after a win and a tie with Denver. What did you learn about your team that first weekend?
“We had a real tough loss on Friday but showed a lot of heart and determination on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-1 tie against a very good Denver team. There were far more positives than negatives that I took out of that series. Then we have a break so there is a lot of time to focus on our team and what we need to do to get ourselves better in all facets of the game. I’m feeling good about our practice this week and jumping back into things preparing for a very good Merrimack team.”

Is that time off between games – a whole weekend – a positive or a negative?
“It’s all about how you use it. It can be an advantage if you’re intelligent about how you approach and and I think we’ve used it to our advantage; I’m not saying I’m intelligent but our entire staff is great and we’ve gone about this the right way. We only talked about ourselves that first week. Even though we had no game that weekend we had a lot of things to work on with our own game. Our team did a fantastic job staying focused and used everyday to get better and not just go through the motions because we weren’t playing that weekend. We kept it fresh and different from day to day and they responded exceptionally well.

“This time of year, it’s all about practice. You’re still trying to implement a lot of things and still working on getting your line combinations together.”

Looking at the roster you can’t help but notice the size on defense …
“It’s an advantage if they’re playing defense with their feet and doing it the right way. We have a lot of great defensemen back there who have played a lot of big games and important minutes for us over the years. They know how to handle every situation and for us to be returning five of our six starting defensemen is obviously a huge positive. Then, we have some good young players filling the holes.

“It’s important for our defense, with their experience and size, to lead the way for us. We have a lot of youth up front and we’re going to make some mistakes from time to time with our forward group and we need our defense and goalie to lead the way for us.

“We like to play physical as a team and having big bodies on the blue line obviously allows us to do that. We want to make sure we make it difficult for other teams to get to our net but we have to do that without taking penalties.”

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Josh Myers commits for 2011

Langley Chiefs forward Josh Myers has given Merrimack College a commitment for next season.

Myers, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder, has 26 points (12g, 14a) in just 16 games thus far fr the Chiefs (BCHL). He had 47 points (27g, 20a) in 49 games last season.

He’s a right-handed shot from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He played two years in the USHL (2007-08, 2008-09) for the Lincoln Stars and Des Moines Buccaneers, finishing with 24 points (9g, 15a) in 97 games over the two seasons.

According to reports, Myers is a speedy and durable winger. Myers is a teammate of fellow recruit Austin Plevy.

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Merrimack 2, Vermont 2: Final

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Merrimack skated to a 2-2 tie with Vermont in its Hockey East opener on Saturday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Chris Barton and Shawn Bates scored the Warriors’ goals while Joe Cannata made 38 saves in net.

“It’s sort of my move, I’ve used it before,” Bates said of his goal. “I faked to the blocker and tried to open up his five hole and it worked on that play and I was able to slide it in.”

The Warriors remain undefeated, moving to 1-0-2 on the season, picking up their first Hockey East point (0-0-1). The Catamounts go to 0-1-2 on the year, also picking up their first league point (0-0-1).

“I tell our guys there is no difference between home and road, it’s all the same ice,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “But at the end of the day it’s good to go out and get Hockey East points, especially on the road.”

The Warriors return to action on Friday, visiting No. 1 and defending national champion Boston College.

Note: I’ll have more coverage including our regular postgame reax post on Sunday.

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Singleton Commits For 2011

Forward Kyle Singleton has committed to Merrimack for 2011.

Singleton, who has nine points (5g, 4a) in 15 games this season, plays for former associate head coach Darren Yopyk and the Westside Warriors (BCHL).

The Beaverton, Oregon native, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, in his third season with the Warriors, scoring 73 points (41g, 32a) in 133 career BCHL games to date.  He scored 25 goals last season.

Singleton marks the sixth recruit to give the Warriors a commitment this month.

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BC 3, MC 2: Final

October 29, 20104 comments

CHESTNUT HILL, MA – Joe Cannata made 39 saves, while Brandon Brodhag and Ryan Flanigan scored, but two goals from second-ranked Boston College early in the third period were the difference as the Eagles edged Merrimack 3-2 Friday night at Kelley Rink.

Merrimack (1-1-2, 0-1-1 HEA) wraps up its home-and-home series with the Eagles (4-1-0, 2-0-0 HEA) Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Lawler Arena. Limited tickets remain and are available online at merrimackathletics.com until early Saturday. The box office will open at 1:30 p.m. inside the Volpe Complex.

“Our team knows that we can beat anyone in the country,” said head coach Mark Dennehy. “We are going to play the game our way. We’re an attacking team.”

With Merrimack leading 2-1 early in the third, Paul Carey evened the score with a wrister from the faceoff circle to Cannata’s right for his first of the year. Moments later with BC on its eighth straight power play, Pat Mullane gave the hosts the lead with the eventual game-winner as Cannata turned the puck over in the corner, and the sophomore was perched right in front of the crease for the easy tap-in at 5:09.

Merrimack finally went back on the power play with 12 minutes left in the third, but shots from Stephane Da Costa and Joe Cucci were turned aside by Muse. They had a two-man advantage for 47 seconds with 8:30 left but couldn’t even the score, as a rocket from Da Costa went straight off the post.

Cannata was pulled late for the extra attacker, but Stollery was stopped by Muse, and the Eagles escaped with the 3-2 victory.

Brodhag beat John Muse at 8:27 for his first of the year on the power play to give the Warriors the early lead, tipping in a shot from Karl Stollery . The Warriors outshot BC 12-11 in the first and had numerous strong chances, highlighted by a shot off the cross bar from Carter Madsen, and a blast from Kyle Bigos that Muse got a piece of with his glove on a sprawling save.

Behind great goaltending from Cannata and excellent blocks from the defense, led by Fraser Allan who played in his first game of the season, the Warriors successfully killed off an Eagle two-man advantage for 1:15 midway through the second period. BC went right back on the power play minutes later, and Cannata robbed Brian Dumoulin with a great glove save. But 36 seconds later, Merrimack was whistled for two infractions, sending the Eagles on a prolonged two-man advantage, and they finally cashed in as Cam Atkinson put home a rebound with 31.2 left in the period, sending the teams to the locker room tied at one through 40 minutes.

With the Warriors being whistled for seven straight penalties in the second, Cannata finished with an incredible 21 second period saves, giving him 32 through two periods.

“There are no excuses,” Dennehy said. “We have to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box, for sure. But your best penalty killer is always your goaltender and (Cannata) played great.”

With Merrimack finally back at full strength early in the third, Da Costa fed Ryan Flanigan, who had just exited the box, and the junior beat Muse blocker side on the breakaway 58 seconds into the third to regain the lead and silence the Eagle faithful.

The Warriors, who were the last team in the country to allow a power-play goal, saw their streak snapped at 21 straight kills to start the season before Atkinson ended the run late in the second.

BC finished 2-for-11 on the man-advantage, while the Warriors were 1-for-5.

Muse finished with 30 saves, as the Eagles outshot Merrimack 42-32, firing 26 of them on the power play.

Merrimack was looking to snap a 22-game winless streak in Chestnut Hill that dates back to 1997.

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Merrimack 4, #2 Boston College 2: Reax

Big Shows

1. Joe Cucci
Cucci potted the Warriors game-winner in the second period and assisted on Jesse Todd’s first score of the game. There wasn’t a better player on MC’s power plays. Cucci was all over the ice, motioning high and low and did what he does best, found his teammates for wide open shots.

2.Joe Cannata
Merrimack’s junior goalie came up huge all weekend, making 31 saves in Saturday’s win. Cannata, on the weekend, stopped 70 of 75 shots. Just like Friday, he made big save after big save on the penalty kill. He was making things look easy.

3. Carter Madsen
He finished the night with two assists, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Madsen played great along the walls and away from the puck as well. His line – matched up with Elliott Sheen and Ryan Flanigan – was Merrimack’s best on the ice. They certainly caused BC the most headaches.

Postgame Presser

Play Of The Game

Merrimack’s penalty kill in the third period was immense. The Eagles had two power plays in the third period and BC only netted +2 in shots (4-2) during that span, with Jesse Todd nearly adding a shorty. The Warriors’ PK just continued its terrific play all weekend, killing 16 of 19 penalties against one of the most talented PP units in the nation.

Ice Chips

– It went largely unnoticed because he didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but hats off to Fraser Allan for another gut-check performance. Allan, who spent the first few weeks recovering from knee surgery, gutted out two stellar games on defense for the Warriors. How many times has he put it on the line for this team? His sophomore year he spent most of the season playing hurt due to short numbers on defense. He’s probably played more games hurt for Merrimack than healthy. And, he’s been one of Merrimack’s best all-around defensemen in his 3+ years wearing the uniform.

– The players play the game, but the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for Merrimack’s early season success, too. They know the type of team they have and they are putting them in situations and playing a style that best fits the personnel. For example, in Mark Dennehy’s first years as head coach, the team played a defense-first game. That was their strength. Now, the strength is in the fact that this team can attack anyone. So what happens? Merrimack attacks for 60 minutes, turning the philosophy 180 degrees. That’s the difference between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to coaches, in my book. You have the coaches who know their team inside and out and the coaches who have a “my way or the highway approach.” The latter always seems to find guys unemployed whether it be in college or the NHL. Coaches who know their teams and play to their strengths are worth more than their weight in gold, for my money.

– Merrimack’s defense was pounding BC forwards all night, just stapling Eagles to the boards. At one point, Barry Almeida took exception to a Kyle Bigos hit near the end of the second period. Almeida skated over for a confab with Merrimack’s towering defensemen but a linesman broke it up rather quickly. Good thing for Almeida, I’d guess; Bigos owns a nine-inch height advantage and outweighs the BC sniper by 50 pounds.

– Shawn Bates continues to impress. First, it was his speed that caught my eye, but he made some moves with the puck tonight that has me convinced he’ll be a top-6 forward his entire time at Merrimack and is a future top-line player when he adds some strength.

– MC withstood a swarming BC team in the third period. Playing with desperation, BC killed a Merrimack 5-on-3 and immediately turned up the heat. BC is one of the best teams in the country and MC was able to limit their chances despite the Eagles mounting pressure. There is so much skill up front for BC, they’re a tough team to neutralize, despite their recent offensive struggles. MC did an excellent job blocking shots and getting into lanes. The Warriors clogged up a lot of what the Eagles wanted to do.

Scoring Summary

Boston College (4-2-0, 2-2-0 HEA): 1-0-1–2
Merrimack (2-1-2, 1-1-1 HEA): 2-1-1–4
First Period: 1. MC Jesse Todd 1 (Carter Madsen, Joe Cucci), ppg, 4:14; 2. BC Brian Gibbons 4 (Joe Whitney, Patrick Wey), ppg, 9:50; 3. MC Shawn Bates 2 (Chris Barton, Kyle Bigos), 15:01.
Second Period: 3. MC Joe Cucci 2 (Stephane Da Costa), ppg, 2:36.
Third Period: 5. BC Cam Atkinson 4 (Brian Gibbons), 2:48.
Shots: Merrimack 13-7-12–32; Boston College 9-8-16–33
Saves: MC Cannata (2-1-2): 8-8-15–31; BC Milner (1-1-0): 11-6-11–28
Power play: Merrimack 2 for 6; Boston College 1 for 6
Attendance: 2,772 (sellout)
Next: Hosts Sweden Tuesday, noon

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MC 4, BC 2: Warrior Hockey Podcasts

Below are podcasts recorded after Merrimack’s 4-2 win over Boston College on Saturday, courtesy of Merrimack radio’s Mike Machnik:

Boston College color man Ken Hodge

Junior F Ryan Flanigan

Senior F Joe Cucci

Junior F Carter Madsen

Head coach Mark Dennehy

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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