Thursday, November 15, 2012

Previewing the Merrimack College Warriors

Fresh off a two game sweep of Notre Dame and archrival Boston University, the #1 Eagles, winners of eight straight, will face off vs the Merrimack College Warriors on Friday night. So far this year, Merrimack ranks fourth in Hockey East with seven points which currently has them three and a half games back of the first place Eagles. Last weekend was a tough one for the Warriors who were swept at home by BU on Friday and Atlantic Hockey foe, UConn on Saturday. Last weekend was certainly a surprise for many as some thought after a sweep vs Northeastern, the Warriors would compete vs teams like BC, BU, and UNH. Going into tomorrow night, senior forward Mike Collins leads Merrimack (and Hockey East) with 5 goals and 8 assist recorded thus far this year. On defense, Merrimack is led by the leading scoring defenseman in Hockey East, Jordan Heywood, who has recorded 8 points and a +2 rating so far. In goal, there is certainly a big hole for MC to fill as they lost All American Joe Cannata from a season ago along with star defenseman Karl Stollery. Tomorrow, like pretty much every team in the country will, Merrimack is going to have their hands full with the high flying Eagles. The problem for the Warriors will be that if there neutral zone trap game starts to deteriorate vs the speedy Eagles, they won't have a goalie like Cannata back there to save them. The strong part of Merrimack's play is usually their play in their own zone and their strong goaltending, right now, they currently rank near the bottom in every major statistical category in the league. Whether it's Marotta or Tirronen tomorrow night, someone is going to have to play the game of their life if they want to have any chance vs the nations best team.

When was the last team Merrimack beat the Eagles @ Kelly Rink ? Well, you'd have to go back to the 1997 season. For BC, well, they've got to love the way they match up vs a team like Merrimack tomorrow night. BC is deeper, quicker, more skilled, and gets better goaltending night in and night out. The one worry for BC however will be the way they handle Merrimack's neutral zone trap. The Warriors will basically have all their forwards in the neutral zone with  their sticks in passing lanes while the defenseman back up behind their own blue line. It will be up to the forwards to get open tomorrow and the defenseman to make clean passes in between the blue lines in order to avoid turnovers. From game on until now, the biggest improvement in my mind, has been the way BC has broken the puck out of their own zone. Tomorrow will present a little bit of a different look with Merrimack's style of just sitting back and letting the opponent get out of their zone but take it to them in the neutral zone with their trap.

Every game in this league is a must win but with this being the only league game between now and November 30th at BU, two points is crucial in order to maintain  a big lead in the league standings. What I look for is for guys like Quinn Smith, Mike Sit, and Danny Linell to start scoring the puck. While the first two lines have been more than enough in each game this year, as the season grows older, guys like these three are going to have to step up and score. Their play has been much, much better as of late but tomorrow, them scoring a goal or two would really be a nice confidence booster heading into Turkey Day. The play of the top six forwards has been absolutely phenomenal and for Merrimack to win tomorrow, they will have to pull a rabbit out of their hat in order to stop them. The last thing that BC needs to do in order to get two points tomorrow is score on the power play as they were 0 for 12 last weekend vs ND and BU. I thought they had some good chances both nights but at times, it seemed like they were trying to make the perfect play by passing through numerous opposing sticks. If the Eagles are able to get their PP going like it was up until last weekend, they should beat a Merrimack team that hasn't scored more than three goals vs BC in the last four meetings.

Keys for the Eagles- 

1. Figuring out MC's trap. Generating odd man rushes and scoring chances vs a neutral zone trap like MC has, can be tough. Hopefully BC's speed and skill will be able to help them crack the trap of which they have not faced this year.

2. Scoring on the power play. BC is a better team 5 on 5 but on the man advantage, they really could do some damage. The Eagles faced two good PK's last weekend so hopefully they learn from their mistakes a week ago and start potting a few.

3. Getting scoring from the fourth line. Linell, Smith, and Sit need to start scoring. It's been nine games and not one of them has a goal on the season. In order to keep winning, these guys need to score.

Best Opposing Wins- @ Union, @ Northeastern

Worst Loss- Vs UConn.

All Time Series- BC is 57-20-5 all time vs MC and is 23-0-2 in the last 25 games @ Conte Forum vs the Warriors.

Best Opposing Line- Collins-Scotti-Toomey

Prediction- BC 4 MC 1


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