The Mack Report

From the E-T: UNH readies for “battle” at Lawler Rink

The following story printed in Friday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune. Mike McMahon is a freelance sportswriter, covering Merrimack College hockey for The Eagle Tribune.

After three straight games with Maine, where Merrimack College took five of a possible six points (2-0-1), the Warriors will begin a weekend series with No. 4 New Hampshire tonight at Lawler Arena (7:30).

Merrimack (9-9-5, 7-5-2 Hockey East) and UNH (14-5-2, 9-4-1 HE) split the season series last season scoring the same amount of goals, with the Warriors taking a 3-2 win at UNH and a 1-1 tie at Lawler Arena along with a 2-1loss at Lawler Arena.

“We’re at an important part of the season,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “We’ve got to go down (to Merrimack) and it’s a tough place to play. They play well down there and we have a battle on our hands if we want to continue to battle for the top of Hockey East.”

This weekend, however, the Warriors won’t visit the Whitt, and its Olympic-sized ice sheet. After tonight’s opener at Lawler Arena, the Warriors and Wildcats will play again tomorrow (5 p.m.) at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, where the Warriors lost in overtime to Notre Dame in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The teams are split, 2-2-1, in the last three years at Lawler Arena.

The UNH game at the Verizon Wireless Arena was usually reserved for an annual date with Dartmouth, but that was changed this season with the Wildcats traveling to Hanover to take part in Dartmouth’s Ledyard Bank Classic Christmas tournament.

“Merrimack’s rink isn’t an easy rink to play in,” said UNH senior forward Austin Block. “Hopefully we can jump out to an early lead or get some momentum down there.”

Inside the numbers

With 11 games to go in the regular season, here is a look into some rarely tracked college hockey statistics:

- Merrimack’s 306 blocked shots is 7th most in the nation but third in Hockey East behind Boston University and Vermont (accounting for all games, not just conference games). Sophomore defenseman Dan Kolomatis leads the team with 38 blocked shots and Mike Collins leads all forwards with 19.

- The Warriors have the most faceoff wins of any team in the country (853), but are ranked 19th in the nation in faceoff percentage. Rhett Bly leads the team with a 55.9% success rate on draws, including 264 wins, which is 10th nationally.

- Of Merrimack’s 62 total goals, 53 have been double assisted, six have had a single assist and three have been unassisted.

- Sam Marotta’s save percentage (.927) is 16th in the nation. His 2.04 goals-against average is 18th nationally.

- Mike Collins has 18 points in Merrimack’s nine wins (4-14–18), which leads the team. Three defensemen — Brendan Ellis, Jordan Heywood and Kyle Bigos — are all averaging at least a point per game in games they’ve played this season in which Merrimack has won.

High praise from Parker

In an interview with College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni, Boston University head coach Jack Parker said of the 2011 Merrimack team, which went 25-11-4 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, “I thought the Merrimack team (from 2011) was good enough to win a national championship. They got to our (conference) championship and fell just short. In the national tournament, they couldn’t get it done either, but they were good enough to do it.”