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Merrimack Preview

Merrimack Warriors 11-15-1, (Hockey East 8-11-1 9th)
vs
#18 Massachusetts Minutemen 16-13-0, (Hockey East 11-11-0 T-4th)  

Official Merrimack Hockey Site
Warrior Rink Rat Blog

What an awful time for the UMass hockey team to have to travel up 495 to Lawler Rink.  The Minutemen, losers of six of their last seven, are not only in desperate need of a win they really need a sweep this weekend.  In order to keep their home ice and NCAA at-large hope alive anything less than taking all four points is not an option.  But one game at a time I guess and tonight’s will be in a rink where UMass has lost four of their last five.  Whether it’s the (sub-par) facilities, the small ice, or the fact that Warrior coach and former UMass assistant Mark Dennehy knows how to shut down a Toot Cahoon team, I’m not sure.  But UMass has struggled when they make the trip to Merrimack.

This is a little different Merrimack team than those of the past few seasons who have had success against UMass.  Those teams were built primarily around defense.  No longer.  This Warrior squad can score and currently have the 5th best offense in Hockey East at 3.11 goals per game.  That’s better than UMass which comes into the game averaging 3 even.  Of course that newly found offense is led by freshman sensation Stephane DeCosta who has put up 13 goals and 22 assists in 25 games so far this season.  Two of those goals came last weekend as his team went up to Burlington and took three of four points from the Catamounts.  He also had the lone goal when UMass beat Merrimack 4-1 at the Mullins back before the winter break.  Right there with DeCosta for the Warriors is junior Chris Barton who has 17 goals and 14 assists.  Those two guys account for 36% of Merrimack’s goals and 28% of its total points.  Obviously the ability to limit the chances for those two could be the difference maker this weekend.

Defensively the Warriors have slipped from past years and have found themselves last in that category in the conference.  Probably with better D the team would likely be having the breakout season that many had predicted and would be in the thick of it in the race for home ice.  But that’s what happens when your goaltender, Joe Cannata, coming off a strong freshman campaign has a goals against of 3.35 and your veteran defenseman, Pat Bowen, is a -12 on the season.  Senior Andrew Braithwaite has seen nearly half of the time at goaltender as a result of Cannata’s but his numbers are only marginally better at 3.15 GAA and .900 save percentage.

Usually in this space I try to focus on how the UMass team has been trending and what they need to focus on to get the win.  I don’t know what to write here.  They quite frankly just need to play each game as if it’s their last.  The motivation should be there.  Despite this horrible losing streak they’re on, they still are in a good spot and can pretty much control their destiny from here on out and still get an NCAA berth.  But not if they just show up.  They need to work their asses off to get opportunities and then make sure to cash in on them.  I know that sounds really basic, but it’s time to get back to basics for this team.  Tonight there are two huge points up for grab on the road.  Tomorrow it’s senior night.  The seniors and their teammates can at the very least make sure that they get a W in their last game every played in the Mullins or they work hard to make sure it won’t be their last home game of the season.  Either way will be fine with me.

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Dick Baker previews the weekend series for the Republican.

Toot calls on the seniors to help lead the team out of the rough patch in the Gazette preview.

USCHO of course celebrates the fact that the “Big Four” of Hockey East has regained their rightful place atop the Hockey East standings.  Spare me…

One of the better Hockey East writers (despite his annoying habit of hyphenating UMass), Mike McMahon of the Eagle Tribune, has a look at Merrimack’s playoff hopes as well as a feature on Stephane DeCosta.  Also check out McMahon’s blog listed up above in my preview.

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The New York Times has an interesting piece detailing how Americans tend to shoot right-handed while those north of the border shoot left-handed.  Sure enough that’s true on the UMass roster.  10 of the 17 US skaters on the roster currently are right hand shots.  However all five Canadian Minutemen are lefties.  Weird.  I’m thinking  proximity to the magnetic north pole has something to do with it.  Maybe Canadians are born with a higher density of iron in their left arms and are naturally pulled that way.

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As expected Jon Quick dressed for Team USA’s win over Norway yesterday, but did not see action as the Americans are expected to ride Ryan Miller all the way to the gold.  I wasn’t able to watch the broadcast but I guess the NBC announcer talked a bit about Quick and his time at UMass.  It probably didn’t hurt that that announcer’s name was Eddie Olczyk Sr.  I have not been successful in finding a picture of him in uniform as of yet since photographers for some reason don’t take pile of pictures of the backup goaltender opening the door on the bench.  But I’ll be sure to share one if I come across it, or if any readers beat me to it please share the link in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. It’s not an annoying habit – it’s how the bosses want it to differentiate it from Lowell, who is right down the road from us 🙂 … no worries. Great work, as always. Looking forward to two very exciting games this weekend.

    Like

    • Question authority! 😉 I still don’t like it, but I guess I understand the point. At the very least I can’t argue with the reasoning of the people who sign your paycheck want it that way.

      I have no idea what to expect in terms of outcomes this weekend, but I agree I think they’ll be very entertaining games. Dennehy certainly seems to know how to get his teams ready for Toot’s teams. Looking forward to seeing DeCosta in person again.

      Like

  2. then call us Massachusetts

    Like

  3. Jason W.

     /  February 19, 2010

    A very disappointing night at ‘Mack.

    Not much more to say then that.

    Like

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