Merrimack beats UMass 2-1 at Lawler Arena on Saturday night, improving its record to 21-5-4 (15-5-3 HEA) on the season. UMass falls to 6-18-5 (5-13-5 HEA).
The Warriors move into second place in Hockey East, after breaking the two-way tie with Boston College (the Warriors won the season series with BC 2-1).
The Warriors can clinch a home-ice playoff berth next weekend in Orono with at least one point. They lead Maine by seven points for home ice with eight points (4 games) remaining. A tie on Friday would put the Warriors seven points up with six points (3 games) remaining, and so on.
If the Warriors can clinch next weekend, it will be the first time a Merrimack team has “earned” a home ice playoff spot. The Warriors did host a playoff series in 1996-97, but that was after finishing fifth in the HEA standings and getting bumped to fourth after Maine, who finished ahead of the Warriors, was ineligible for postseason play due to sanctions.
1. Mike Collins
Scored the Warriors’ first goal of the game on a sharp wrister that beat Paul Dainton to the glove side. Collins played on a new line combo with Jesse Todd and Rhett Bly. Collins finished the night with 2 shots and now has 21 points (10g, 11a) in 27 games as a rookie. He is the fifth Warrior on the roster to hit 10 goals this season.
2. Jesse Todd
Rifled the game-winner in the second period off a sharp feed from Ryan Flanigan on the power play. Todd leads the Warriors with 16 goals on the season, which is a career high. His goal last night was the 36th of his Merrimack career, and has 67 points, which could put him in the 100-point club next season as a senior if he keeps up this pace.
3. Tom McCarthy
A real solid game from the freshman defenseman. McCarthy isolated his man on the rush every time, winning battles along the boards and in front of his goaltender, Joe Cannata. He is also very good at getting the puck out of his end on the breakout. A real solid weekend for the freshman defender, who was paired with Jordan Heywood in last night’s win.
Warrior Hockey Podcasts
Pregame interview with head coach Mark Dennehy
Pregame interview with UMass head coach Don Cahoon
Intermission interview with sophomore F Brandon Brodhag
Postgame interview with co-Warrior of the Game freshman F Mike Collins
Postgame interview with co-Warrior of the Game junior F Jesse Todd
Postgame interview with head coach Mark Dennehy
– Joe Cannata’s 38th win set a new program record for wins in a career (Division 1) by a goalie. Cannata made 15 saves on the night.
– Both Chris Barton and Joe Cucci had 7 shots on net, leading both teams.
– The Warriors had nine shots in 4:58 of power-play time, including six shots in 1:39 on their first power play of the night, which concluded with Jesse Todd’s goal in the second period.
– UMass, meanwhile, managed just six shots on its six power-play chances, which elapsed 9:46. The Warriors’ penalty kill did a great job blocking shots, including a huge block by Todd in the waning seconds of the second period.
– The Warriors won the faceoff battle 40-27, with Cucci leading the way (15-6).
It was the same two points in the HEA standings, but you could tell the Warriors were more pleased with the effort in last night’s win when compared to Friday, when the Warriors stole two points at the Mullins Center.
Quite a few Warriors had real solid games. Collins and Todd obviously scored the goals but other guys, like McCarthy, had real solid games defensively.
Paul Dainton was terrific for UMass, making 39 stops. He made some sprawling saves, too. Really athletic. He’s almost Hasek-like in that he plays the puck a lot, at least he did this weekend, but he’s good at it. Very athletic.
The Warriors kept throwing pucks at the net and crashed hard. Just a real efficient, workmanlike effort. The Warriors, simply put, took care of business.
NCAA Tournament Update
The Warriors are, currently, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, tied for fourth in the Pairwise with Denver, but the Warriors win the tiebreaker. At a quick glance, I believe the Warriors would be matched up with RPI in St. Louis if the season were to end today. Merrimack would be a No. 1 seed, jumping Denver this weekend.
There is still plenty of hockey left – at least six games if you’re the Warriors including the HEA quarterfinals – but it’s going to take a lot for Merrimack to not make the NCAA tournament at this point, in my opinion. I haven’t run all the scenarios (there are still way too many), but seeded as high as they are in the Pairwise, with their winning percentage and record against TUC (teams under consideration), they might actually need help to not get in. Especially when you consider how well the Warriors are playing.
I’ll run a full bracket breakdown this week.
Merrimack 2, UMass 1
at Lawler Arena, Merrimack College
Massachusetts (6-18-5, 5-13-5): 0-0-1–1
Merrimack College (21-5-4, 15-5-3): 1-1-0–2
MC Mike Collins 10 (Jordan Heywood, Jeff Velleca), EV, 11:09
MC Jesse Todd 16 (Jeff Velleca, Ryan Flanigan), PP, 4:35
UMA TJ Syner 8 (Joel Hanley, Adam Phillips), PP, 10:34
Shots: Merrimack 21-14-6–41; UMass 7-5-4–16
Saves: MC Cannata 7-5-3—15; UMA Dainton 20-13-6–39
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 2 (9 shots); UMass 1 for 6 (5 shots)
Faceoffs: 40-27 Merrimack