Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Northeast #2: Merrimack

Merrimack College Warriors

2 seed vs. Notre Dame,
Northeast Regional (Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH)
At-large bid from Hockey East

Coach: Mark Dennehy

Merrimack is making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1988, their only other trip to the big dance as a Division I program. The Warriors are led this year by sophomore Stephane Da Costa (14-30--44), who centers the top line where freshman Jesse Todd (17-14--31) leads the team in goals. Including Da Costa and Todd, seven different Warriors have 10 or more goals, and 15 have at least 10 points. In net, Joe Cannata (.911 sV%, 2.44 GAA) has taken the vast majority of minutes, appearing in all 38 of Merrimack's games played.

Founded in 1947, Merrimack is a speck of a liberal arts college in North Andover, Massachusetts with a total undergraduate population of just over 2,000. It's a Roman Catholic institution associated with the Augustinian order that competes in Division II in all sports but hockey. It's presumably named after the Merrimack River that flows through Andover, not the Civil War ironclad.

Merrimack plays a high-flying style of hockey that can see them thrash Maine 7-1 on January 8th and then get beaten down 0-4, 1-7 by that same Maine team February 25-26th, then sweep the Black Bears 5-4, 6-2 two weeks later. The Warriors were in the running for the last #1 seed for much of the season, but thanks in large part to that Maine series and another stumble at hapless Providence, Merrimack slips in as the #5 overall seed to land in Manchester. Who knows which Merrimack team is going to show up in the NCAAs, but it should be entertaining to watch.

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