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Storylines: Merrimack needs to win the matchup of top lines again vs. UConn

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Merrimack hosts UConn tonight (7 p.m.) wrapping up the season series with the Huskies after the Warriors picked up a 3-2 overtime win last Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford. Exclusively for TMR VIP members, here are the storylines we’re watching heading into tonight:

Will Merrimack’s line bouncing continue?

I’ll be honest, I like the idea of Sami Tavernier playing with Brett Seney and Jace Hennig. Merrimack has gone to that trio in each of the last two games, but they haven’t started together. Hennig and Seney have played with Tyler Irvine and then Tavernier was with Michael Babcock and Patrick Kramer, but he moved up to the Seney line late in the game against UConn — they were on the ice for Tavernier’s game-winning goal in OT — and Merrimack also went to that line late in the Providence game when they needed a spark.

I think we’ll see that continue, it’s just a matter or whether or not they start the lines that way or if they bounce to it later in the game, if they need a goal.

I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the Warriors stack up the top-two lines. Scoring has been hot or cold for them this year, so paring Hennig-Seney-Tavernier and then someone on the left side with Ludvig Larsson and Cole McBride gives you two solid scoring lines, with the top line being extremely effective.

Matching up the top-six

Merrimack held UConn’s top-two lines in check last Friday. Start forward Max Letunov had a goal, but the top-six forwards for UConn generated only eight shots on goal the entire game. Merrimack’s top-six forwards scored two goals (including Tavernier in that equation, after he was moved up late in the game) and generated 14 shots on goal. Games are mostly won and lost on the power play and when comparing top players (i.e. players on the power play) and Merrimack had the advantage in that category last week, on the road.

Warriors know how to bounce back

Looking at the schedule, you don’t see a lot of back-to-back poor performances from Merrimack this year. The two games that stick out were the 7-2 loss at Duluth and then a 4-0 loss to UMass the next weekend, but that 7-2 Duluth game was 2-1 entering the third period before the wheels came off for the Warriors, so I’m not sure I’d really say that was two bad games in a row, although the UMass game was not a good one.

So, Merrimack played poorly against Providence on Saturday night. But they’ve been able to bounce back after those games this year. After the 4-0 loss to UMass, they beat the Minutemen the next night. The only other instance where I would say they struggled after a “poor” game was the sweep at the hands of Northeastern the weekend after Merrimack blew a 5-1 lead in a 6-6 tie with Providence, but I wouldn’t say that Merrimack played overly poorly against the Huskies, it’s just that Northeastern was a better team.

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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