Hockey East Preview: Merrimack Warriors
Last Season: 18-12-7 (13-9-5), Finished 5th, Lost in HE Quarterfinals
What Happened: After making the Hockey East championship and their first NCAA tournament appearance 2010-11, the Merrimack Warriors looked to prove their success was no fluke. They accomplished this early on, as Merrimack topped the national rankings in November. While the team didn’t stay atop the national poll, the Warriors were ranked in every poll for the first time in school history. Merrimack struggled in the second half of the season though, going 6-8-4 in 2012, before losing a three-game series to Maine in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
- Joe Cannata (G) – Joe Cannata leaves Merrimack as the school’s leader in almost every statistical category. Cannata started all but one game over the last two seasons, backstopping the Warriors to an NCAA tournament appearance in the process. He signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks this offseason, which means that Merrimack will have a new starting goaltender in 2012-2013. The frontrunner for the position appears to be Sam Marotta, who had a shutout in his only start last season.
- Karl Stollery (D) – One of the top scoring defenseman in Hockey East throughout his career, Karl Stollery finished his time at Merrimack with 83 points. Stollery served as team captain with Ryan Flanigan last year and the Warriors will surely miss his presence on the blueline this season.
- Ryan Flanigan (F) – Flanigan led the Warriors in scoring this past season with 29 points and was regularly on the first line for the team. Merrimack was 9-2-0 when Flanigan scored a goal last season. He stepped up into a leadership role last season and served as a team captain, helping to fill the void left by the departure of the Warrior’s entire first line from 2010-2011.
- Mike Collins (F) – Mike Collins followed up his strong freshman season with another stellar season. Collins finished third on the Warriors in points (25) and led the team in powerplay goals with seven. Collins is the only returning Warrior to score over 20 points in 2011-2012, and should expect to be a mainstay on the team’s first line this season. Merrimack loses four of its top five scorers from last season and Collins may need to reach the 35-40 point range to help ease those losses.
- Jordan Heywood (D) – As a sophomore, Heywood ranked second in scoring among Merrimack defensemen, compiling a 4-15-19 line will appearing in all 37 games. If he can step up and help fill the void left by Stollery, that will be a big lift for the Warriors entering 2012-13.
2012-2013 Outlook: For the second year in a row, Merrimack loses at least two players off of its first line. While players like Flanigan, Collins, and Jesse Todd were able to make up for the loss of offense last year, this year the team also loses Stollery and the school’s best all-time goalie in Cannata. If players such as Heywood and Kyle Bigos are able to ease the loss of Stollery and help Marrota adjust to being a starting goaltender in Hockey East, then the Warriors could continue to challenge for home ice in 2012-2013.
- Mike Sobel