Nov. 14, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. -
The Hockey East era arrives at the Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend when Notre Dame plays its first two league contests on Nov. 15-16. The Merrimack College Warriors will provide the competition in a 7:35 p.m. game on Nov. 15 and the two teams will meet again on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna will be on hand for a ceremonial opening face off on Friday night to get the Hockey East era under way for the Irish.
Notre Dame enters the weekend with a 7-3-0 overall mark and a 1-1-0 record in Hockey East after splitting a pair of games at Vermont on Nov. 1-2. Merrimack is 3-5-0 on the year and 0-2-0 in league play after losing a pair of games to the Providence College Friars last weekend.
After last weekend's split win top-ranked Minnesota, Notre Dame remains ranked third in the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine poll and fourth in the USCHO.com poll.
Merrimack College is a Roman Catholic College established in the tradition of St. Augustine and opened in 1947 as a direct response to the needs and aspirations of local G.I.'s returning home from World War II. Located in North Andover, Mass., Merrimack College is situated on 220 acres in the Merrimack Valley and is the home to over 2,200 students. The college offers 39 major areas of study with undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, business, science and engineering and education. The Merrimack men's hockey program participates at the NCAA Division I level while 21 other sports play in Division II. Women's hockey will join Hockey East and Division I in 2015-16. The Warriors' hockey program was a Division II hockey power in the 70s and 80s, winning an NCAA Division II title in 1977-78. They made the jump to Division I in 1987-88 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they upset Northeastern before losing to Lake Superior State on the way to the Lakers first NCAA Division I title. Merrimack joined Hockey East in 1989-90 and have been members ever since. The Warriors advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11 when they were 25-10-4 and faced Notre Dame in the Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H. The Irish won that game, 4-3 in overtime. Head coach Mark Dennehy is in his ninth season at Merrimack and owns a record of 107-152-36, including a 58-39-17 mark over the last three years. Former Merrimack players to see action in the National Hockey League include: Steve McKenna (Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Minnesota), Stephane DeCosta (Ottawa - current), Kyle Bigos (San Jose - current), Mark Cornforth (Boston 1995-96), John Jakopin (Florida, Pittsburgh, San Jose - 1997-03), Jim Hrivnak (Washington, Winnipeg, St. Louis - 1989-94). Last season, the Warriors were 15-17-5 overall and 13-11-3 in Hockey East, good for sixth place. For more information on Merrimack College, check the school's website at www.merrimackathletics.com.
IRISH VERSUS THE WARRIORS
Notre Dame and Merrimack have met six times in the all-time series with each team owning three victories. In games played at Notre Dame, the Irish are 0-2-0 against the Warriors. In games at Merrimack, Notre Dame is 2-1-0 and on neutral ice, the Irish have a 1-0-0 record. The first time the two teams met was in the championship game of the Merrimack Tournament on Dec. 18, 1969 at North Billerica, Mass., with the Irish taking a 5-1 victory. The next meetings came in the 1988-89 season when the squads got together three times. In two games at Notre Dame (Nov. 23 and 25), the Warriors took both games by 3-1 and 4-3 scores. Game three of that season came on Jan. 7, 1989 at North Andover, Mass., with Merrimack winning 6-0. The fifth meeting in the series came at Merrimack on Nov. 26, 1991, a game won by Notre Dame, 2-1 in overtime. The Warriors and the Irish would not meet again until the 2011 NCAA Tournament as they were paired in a first-round game in the Northeast Regional at Manchester, N.H. There, the Irish trailed 2-0 and 3-1, but rallied on goals by Anders Lee and Billy Maday `11 to tie the game at 3-3. Lee then scored his second of the game at 5:18 of overtime for the 4-3 win. Notre Dame then downed New Hampshire in the regional final to advance to the Frozen Four.
A LOOK BACK
Ten members of the current Irish roster were members of the 2010-11 Notre Dame squad that faced Merrimack in the NCAA Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H. In that game, Merrimack jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on a power-play goal by Kyle Bigos at 13:23 and a short-handed tally by Ryan Flanigan at 16:00. The Irish got their first of the game on a power-play goal by Calle Ridderwall `11 at 16:27 and that's the way the first period ended. In the second, the Warriors took their second, two-goal game of the night when Rhett Bly scored at 2:58 for a 3-1 advantage. Notre Dame was able to cut the lead to 3-2 before the end of the second period when Bryan Rust moved the puck from the right side to Anders Lee on the left. Lee raced in and fired a shot on goaltender Joe Cannata that went off his glove and into the goal to make it 3-2 at 13:29.
"We struggled early in that game and really didn't pick up our pace until the second period," recalled senior center T.J. Tynan who assisted on Ridderwall's first period goal.
"Leeb's (Anders Lee) goal was a big one and then Billy (Maday) got a goal in the third off a skate to tie the game."
Lee had a hand in Maday's game-tying goal at 5:32 of the third period as his shot on goal was kicked out by Cannata. A Merrimack defender tried to push the rebound back to his goaltender to cover the puck but Maday raced in and got a stick on the puck, pushing it through Cannata and into the goal.
"We were just throwing shots at the net, trying to get rebounds in the third period," said Rust.
"Billy (Maday) just got to the net and got his stick on the puck and it went in. That's the way we had to score to beat them."
From there, goaltender Mike Johnson `13 and the Notre Dame defense stopped the Warriors, sending the game to overtime. In the extra session, Merrimack peppered Johnson with the six shots in the first five minutes and Jeff Jackson called a timeout.
"I think any coach would have called that timeout. The pressure was on us. If I could have called it earlier I would have," said Jackson following the contest.
"I just told our guys to calm down. We were turning pucks over. Merrimack has three lines and anyone of them can score. If it weren't for Mike Johnson, we wouldn't be sitting here right now. Sometimes you call the timeout to change the momentum and that was one of those times."
The time out worked because 18 seconds later, the Irish were celebrating on the ice with the victory. Off the face off, the Irish threw the puck into the Merrimack zone where a Warrior defender picked it up on the left side of the goal and moved out the right with Lee in pursuit. As the defenseman cut inside at the right post, Lee took a swing at the puck and deflected it past Cannata to give Notre Dame its only lead of the night and the win, 4-3.
"Obviously I will never forget Leebers' (Lee's) goal in overtime," said Tynan.
"It was one of the most exciting feelings that I have ever had in my life. Being down two goals in the NCAA Tournament against a really good team and coming back to win it was very exciting for us."
A LOOK AT THE WARRIORS
Coach Mark Dennehy's squad brings a 3-5-0 record into this weekend's series and is 0-2-0 in Hockey East play. The Warriors opened the season with a pair of losses at the University of Denver and then split a pair of games with Mercyhurst in the second week of the campaign. They evened their record at 3-3-0 with wins over Army and Bentley. Last weekend, Merrimack was shutout at home, 1-0, by Providence before dropping a 4-2 decision in Rhode Island. The Warriors are led offensively by senior forward Mike Collins who has nine points (2g, 7a) in eight games. Junior defenseman Dan Kolomatis is second in scoring with seven points (2g, 5a). Senior Sam Marotta and junior Rasmus Tirronen have split the goaltending with Marotta being 1-4-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Tirronen is 2-1-0 with a 2.11 average and a .922 save percentage. The Warriors are six-for-46 on the power play for a 13.0% success rate. They are 38-for-45 killing penalties for an 84.4% penalty-killing average.
Irish head coach Jeff Jackson knows his team has to be ready for the Warriors.
"This is our first home conference series. If we are going to be a top-four team in Hockey East, we have to win our home games," says Jackson.
"We have to have our best effort because I know we will get Merrimack's best effort. I expect them to be a challenging team."
Jackson adds, "You don't know what to expect because the game is so much more than watching film. They will be a team that is hard to play against. They play in a smaller building so I assume they will play a style of game where they pack it in and play defense. They transition from their defense, that's how they generate speed. They are patient and wait for their chances. You have to be prepared to keep the puck moving."
HOCKEY EAST HAPPENINGS
Congratulations to Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon who won his 150th career game at Vermont and 200th career game as a head coach on Nov. 9 when the Catamounts defeated Maine, 4-2, in Orono, Me. ... Boston College's 11-0 win over Army last Sunday was the most goals that the Eagles have scored in a game since a 15-6 win over Lowell on Jan. 30, 1985 ... Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette shut out Vermont 2-0 on Nov. 8 for his first shutout of the season and the fourth of his collegiate career ... the shutout win gave Maine a 4-0-0 record at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season ... the University of Massachusetts is tied for the national lead along with Denver as both schools have 14 power-play goals on the year ... overall, the Minutemen are fourth in the nation in power-play percentage at 28.6% ... Northeastern stopped UMass-Lowell's four-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory on Nov. 9... the River Hawks got both their goals in the game via the power play ... for Northeastern the win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Huskies ... over the last two seasons, Northeastern is 5-3-0 versus teams that played in the Frozen Four the previous season ... NU's freshman class has 11 goals and 33 assists this season, which is the most points for any rookie class in the nation ... Merrimack dropped a 4-2 decision to Providence last Saturday after leading the game 2-1 in the second period ... the loss for Merrimack was the first when leading after two periods since Dec. 30, 2012, to Union ... the Warriors were 43-2-4 previously, with the only losses being the aforementioned Union setback, and Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 ... Providence College sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies posted his Providence College record-tying seventh career shutout on Nov. 8 in the 1-0 win over Merrimack in just his 42nd career game ... he is now tied with Tyler Sims with seven career shutouts between 2004-08 ... Sims picked up his seventh shutout in his 94th career game...