BOSTON -- Historic Matthews Arena will be the place to be for New England hockey fans on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as the Northeastern Huskies and Merrimack Warriors match-up in the first Hockey East conference game of the 2012-13 season.
The teams completed their season series very early in 2011-12 as Merrimack took five of the six possible points up for grabs in the league race, while finishing all three games before Nov. 5, 2011. The Warriors closed that series with a 3-2 win over NU in overtime as current New York Ranger minor league forward Ryan Flanigan scored a shorthanded goal past Husky senior Chris Rawlings to seal the victory.
Northeastern will be in search of its first victory in the series since Dec. 4, 2010 when it snapped Merrimack's unbeaten home record with a 2-1 win at Lawler Arena. The Huskies hold a 46-37-10 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1967, but the Warriors are 4-1-1 in the last six meetings.
After a 4-1 upset of then-No. 5 Union on Saturday in Schenectady, N.Y., the Warriors jumped to No. 19 in the USCHO.com poll entering this week. Warrior sophomore Josh Myers was named Hockey East Player of the Week on Monday after potting two goals on five shots on goal to open his season.
Additionally, junior netminder Sam Marotta earned the conference's Defensive Player of the Week honors, backstopping Merrimack with 33 saves in just his second-career start. The Bridgewater, Mass. native and product of the EJHL's South Shore Kings, has earned the victory in both of those games. Last Oct. 22, he pitched a 5-0 shutout of future HEA conference foe UConn at Lawler Arena in his only prior victory.
Myers, junior Shawn Bates and senior John Heffernan led the way for Merrimack, scoring six combined points in the third period, leading the Warriors in the victory and back into the national polls. They were ranked for the entire 2011-12 season, including a No. 1 spot approaching last Thanksgiving, but were left out of the preseason ranking released last week. With the win, which was also the 90th for head coach Mark Dennehy, MC improves to 8-2-2 in its last 12 season openers.
Northeastern suffered a 4-3 exhibition loss to St. Francis Xavier (of Nova Scotia) on Sunday afternoon and will look to avenge last season's bitter November loss to the Warriors in what will be the regular-season opener for the Huskies, despite leading by two goals in the second period. Senior captain Vinny Saponari and sophomore assistant Ludwig Karlsson each posted multiple points in the contest.
Led by one of the nation's nine second-year head coaches in Jim Madigan, the Huskies are hosting a Hockey East league contest to open the season for just the fourth time and are 2-0-1 in those previous instances.
Elsewhere in the league this week, UMass-Lowell hosts Vermont on Friday at the Tsongas Center, while Boston University and Northeastern host league games the following night.
Rookie of the Week Steven Swavely and Maine travel to Kansas City this weekend to take part in the annual IceBreaker Tournament. The Black Bears face Notre Dame on Friday night at 7 p.m. in a game televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.
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