After spending nearly a month on the road, the Merrimack College men’s ice hockey team returns to Lawler Rink to open a two-game weekend series against the University of Maine. Game time each night is set for 7 p.m.
(1) Three is the magic number
The Warriors trail eighth-place Maine by nine points with six games to play, including two games head-to-head against the Black Bears this weekend. If the Warriors earn anything less than three points this weekend, they’ll be eliminated from Hockey East playoff contention.
(2) Welcome back, Black Bears
Merrimack will welcome the Black Bears to Lawler Rink for the first time in two years this weekend. The last time they met in North Andover, in February of 2017, saw Merrimack take 3-of-4 points with a tie and an overtime victory.
Last season in Orono, the teams split a pair of overtime games. The Black Bears won 4-3 in the first game of the series before the Warriors won, 3-2, on Saturday night with the overtime winner coming off the stick of Sami Tavernier.
(3) Merrimack and Maine will meet for the 100th time
Merrimack and Maine will be meeting for the 100th time on Friday; the Warriors trail the Black Bears, 22-69-9, in that span. The series began back in December of 1978.
Over the last three years, Merrimack has a slight edge with a 3-2-1 record in that span, with each of the last five games needing overtime to decide the match. Merrimack is 12-27-6 all-time at Lawler Rink against the Black Bears. Nine of the last 12 games between the two teams have been decided by one goal or less.
(4) Tavernier leads all scorers against Maine
Merrimack junior Sami Tavernier has had the most success against the Black bears in his career with four points (3g, 1a) in as many games. He is the only Warrior on the roster with more than one goal in his career against Maine. Senior goaltender Drew Vogler is 1-1-0 with a 2.42 goals against and .930 save percentage against Maine, with that win coming last season.
(5) Maine feels the draft
The UMaine roster includes three NHL draft picks, with Patrick Shea being selected by the Florida Panthers in 2015, Chase Pearson being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 2015, and goaltender Jeremy Swayman being taken in the 2017 draft by the Boston Bruins.
(6) Red Gendron has three rings
Maine head coach Red Gendron is one of the only coaches in hockey to be part of an NCAA National Championship as well as a Stanley Cup. Gendron was on the coaching staff when Maine won the 1993 National Championship and he was an associate head coach at Yale when the Bulldogs won the national title in 2013. In 1995, Gendron was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils when they won the Stanley Cup.
(7) In need of a stronger D zone
Merrimack’s defense was recently yielding over four goals per game for the first time in about 15 years. The last team that allowed 4-plus goals per game was the 2004-05 team that yielded 4.06. That team won just eight games that season and it ended with head coach Chris Serino resigning. Merrimack allowed seven goals in three straight games at one point, the first time it has done so since January of 1998.
The nine goals allowed against Northeastern on Nov. 30 were the most since a 9-2 defeat at Michigan on Oct. 16, 2005.
Overall, Merrimack has now allowed six or more goals seven times, the most since the 1997-98 season (15).
(8) The juniors and Swayman are leading the Black Bears
A pair of juniors lead the way offensively for Maine, which ranks 43rd nationally averaging 2.54 goals/game; Mitchell Fossier’s 28 points are built on a team-best 24 assists, while Chase Pearson’s 15 goals lead the squad (15-10–25). Sophomore d-man Brady Keeper also has 16 points.
Sophomore Jeremy Swayman has started all 28 games in net; he owns a 2.85 goals against and a .918 save percentage to help Maine rank 34th nationally in scoring defense (2.93).
(9) Two is the magic number defensively
In all of Merrimack’s seven wins, the team has either shut out its opponent (four times) or hold them to two goals or less (3).» Otherwise, the Warriors have allowed three-plus goals in 18 of their 20 losses. Their only losses when allowing two or fewer are vs. Lake Superior (10/7, 1-0) and at UNH (1/4, 2-1, OT).
(10) Tavernier will hit 100 games this weekend
Sami Tavernier’s next game will be the 100th of his career.
Senior Alex Carle and graduate student Matt McArdle both hit the century mark for career games played on Dec. 28 against Denver, becoming the third and fourth members of the senior class to do so. Junior Tyler Irvine did so on Jan. 26 against Vermont.