Current, Former Warriors in NHL Development Camps

Joe Cannata at Canucks Camp

Joe Cannata at Canucks Camp

Several current, former and future Warriors are taking part in NHL Development Camps across the country.

In Vancouver, former All-American turned Hobey Baker nominee Joe Cannata may well earn the backup job with the Canucks after former Boston College standout Cory Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils during this year’s NHL Draft.

His backup both in High School and College, Merrimack senior Sam Marotta, also received an invite.

 

In Chicago, Merrimack junior Quinn Gould is performing during his week with the club. After 9 points in limited play following an injury last season, Gould scored a goal to help his Team B defeat Team A in a scrimmage according to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers.

 

Future Warrior Mike Babcock, son of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, is taking part in Detroit’s Camp.

Babcock scored 42 points (18-24-42) in 30 games for Detroit Catholic Central High School this past season, and was recently traded to the Fargo Force of the USHL.

Via Mike McMahon at The Mack Report here’s a quote from Fargo assistant coach Jesse Davis.

“Michael is a defensive type of forward who may not put many points up on the board but he’s going to help keep a lot of pucks out of our net”, said Fargo assistant coach Jesse Davis. “He has great speed and we were searching for a player like him. When he became available, we traded for him right away to help fill some of the voids left from a lot of forwards from last year’s team moving on to college hockey.”

If 42 points in 30 games is coming from someone who “may not put many points up on the board,” Merrimack fans should be excited.

Senior Mike Collins and incoming freshman Chris LeBlanc are taking part in Minnesota and Ottawa’s camps, respectively.

 

Sometimes It’s Heaven That Freezes Over

Merrimack Hockey  to play at Fenway Park for  Frozen Fenway in January

"Frozen Fenway" at Fenway Park. Merrimack College is expected to play Providence in January, 2014

“Frozen Fenway” at Fenway Park. Merrimack College is expected to play Providence January 4, 2014

Hockey East officially announced today what has been speculation for the past several months: college hockey is returning to Fenway Park.

Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna said the following in a statement released today:

“We are excited about the return of hockey to Fenway Park. We are particularly pleased that with these two doubleheaders, all of our men’s programs will have had the opportunity to experience Frozen Fenway, including the University of Notre Dame, our newest member.”

When Fenway Park last held its Frozen Fenway event in January 2012, Merrimack College was not one of the schools chosen to participate. This time, however, Merrimack will the opportunity to play against Providence College, a budding rivalry that has resulted in exciting, physical hockey games between the two programs who have become just as tough members of the Hockey East conference as any other school.

The news became official today when the City of Boston approved the necessary permits needed in order to make Frozen Fenway happen.

Merrimack will play Providence College in the first game of a double-header on January 4th, with Boston College taking on Notre Dame University – the newest addition to Hockey East in 2014 – in the later game. The Merrimack/Providence game will be a non-conference game, so the outcome will not affect the Hockey East standings.

“Even though this has been done before, playing at Fenway is still truly exciting for all involved,” Merrimack hockey head coach Mark Dennehy told College Hockey News’ Mike McMahon. “Merrimack is proud to be a part of this event.”

 

Joe Cannata Recalled by Canucks

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Merrimack Athletics sent out the following press release today:

Former Merrimack College goalie, Joe Cannata (Wakefield, Mass.) has been promoted to the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL for the final two games of the regular season, as announced by the team on Wednesday.

Cannata was a sixth-round draft pick of the Canucks and signed with the team last spring after a stellar collegiate career at Merrimack.

Cannata appeared in 14 games for the Chicago Wolves this season, the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate, registering a 2.65 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. Cannata compiled a 6-6-0 record during his stint with the Wolves.

Cannata departed as Merrimack’s all-time leader in wins, games played, minutes played, saves, goals-against and save percentage. He started all but one game in his final two years and allowed only 27 even strength goals (excluding empty netters) in 27 league games as a senior. The Wakefield native surrendered more than two goals only eight times as a senior, as Merrimack went 18-2-4 when scoring two or more goals. 

A two-time Hobey Baker nominee and Walter Brown award semifinalist, Cannata was a Hockey East first-team selection as a senior, becoming the program’s first first-team honoree since 1993-94.

Game Blog: #17 Merrimack at #19 BU

Merrimack looking to reclaim lost points here at Agganis tonight

Merrimack looks to reclaim lost points here at Agganis tonight

Final: BU 5, Merrimack 2

With this Merrimack loss and a ULowell win over BC tonight, Merrimack falls to 29th in the PairWise Rankings as well as fifth in Hockey East, as there’s now a 4-way tie for first. Merrimack stands only a point ahead of BU, and is currently out of a home playoff spot for the Hockey East Tourney. It was just too little too late. Headed down to the pressers now, if there’s anything worth posting I’ll update in a bit. Merrimack next takes the ice at ULowell Friday night, then again at home on Sunday.

Midway through the 3rd: BU 5, Merrimack 2

Jordan Heywood just found the back of the net twice in under 2 minutes. The first came from a one-timer from the point on the Power Play from Hussar and Collins. I missed the second, but Toomey and Scotti got assists. At least there’s a bit of an upside here.

This is a a bad BU team. 6:49 to play as I type this. Do I smell a comeback?

Second Intermission: BU 5, Merrimack 0

The bad gets worse. Dennehy pulled Marotta in favor of Rasmus Tirronen, who hasn’t played in nearly 2 months, for the second period. Ras had a tough time of it in the period, giving up 2 goals of his own. Both came from Matt Nieto about 7 minutes apart, both were high snipes, the latter of which came on a wide open breakaway. What’s worse: BU only attempted 6 shots on goal in the period. At the time of Nieto’s  second goal, they were 2-for-2 in shots/goals.

As Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) points out here a Merrimack loss drops them to 29th in the PairWise Rankings, 13 spots out of contention for an at-large bid.

There are creepy men dancing poorly to Ne-Yo on the jumbotron. We’re losing 5-0. Can it get worse? I’m uncomfortable. I actually wouldn’t be totally shocked at a Nick Drew sighting tonight. For his sake, I hope he gets some time.

First Intermission: BU 3, Merrimack 0

Merrimack simply looks horrible. I really don’t have a single good thing to say right now. Here’s some notes –

The lines look a little different tonight. Dennehy started his second line of John Gustafsson, Shawn Bates and Josh Myers, as well as the Brendan Ellis-Justin Mansfield D-pair. Sam Marotta started in net as usual.

The Power Play units were a bit different too  – Vinny Scotti, Bates, and Quinn Gould came out with Ellis and Kolomatis first, followed by Connor Toomey-Rhett Bly-Justin Hussar with Mike Collins and Jordan Heywood.

Early in the period, Dennehy was using a stretching technique – essentially leaving a forward in the neutral zone while the team is on defense – to try and catch BU off guard or draw a defender out of the offense. BU completely missed it at first, but a defender quickly reacted and stayed around the blue line to be safe. Gould was the first to do it, then Myers after him. Interesting strategy that Dennehy used to employ a lot years ago but hasn’t really done much of recently.

The scoring opened when BU soph. Evan Rodrigues got out on a breakaway 1-on-1 with Jordan Heywood, managed to edge him off and somehow sneak a nice backhanded shot past Marotta. It was a really weird angle, and it looked like Marotta thought Heywood had cut it off enough that no shot would get by, or he’d at least be square to it if it did. Rodrigues was nearly even with Marotta at that point. Definitely caught me off guard, at least. The goal came at 9:47.

The second came under 2 minutes later as BU assistant captain Garrett Noonan danced around in the offensive zone and gave a nice look to Wade Megan, who sent a one-timer top shelf past Marotta. The shot was straight down the middle, so you’d have to think Marotta might not have seen it, or just completely missed it.

After the second goal, Dennehy used Merrimack’s timeout. There’s been a lot of frustration on the MC bench tonight, and with a nearly empty arena you can hear players yelling things like “Let’s get it together!” on the ice.

Only 2 and a half minutes later BU struck again as Marotta let up an uncharacteristic huge rebound, which soph. Cason Hohmann managed to grab with his stick extended just before a sprawling Marotta covered it. Hohmann spun around, and hardly pushed it towards the net, but it struck just inside the outside pole and in for a goal. Just like that, Merrimack trails 3-0.

Teams are back on the ice for the second period, so stay tuned, but this could be a long night. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for live updates at @PatBradleyUSCHO

Game Blog: BC downs Merrimack in OT

 

Final: BC 2, Merrimack 1

After Quinn Gould raced down the ice with a breakaway following the opening faceoff, it was all BC. The Eagles kept possession and attacked Marotta with the puck. Junior center Rhett Bly was injured following a BC offensive set and skated off under his power without his stick in the middle of a play. He must be really hurt if he just left the play, but understood they needed a fifth able-bodied player.

After Marotta appeared to make another tremendous save, BC sophomore Quinn Smith found a rebound and put it in for BC for the win.

With the loss, Merrimack drops to 24th in the PWR with 5 games to play in the regular season. Next game is Tuesday at BU.

End of Regulation: Merrimack 1, Boston College 1

A crazy back and forth third period led to several close chances for both teams. Sam Marotta has played mind-blowingly well. Milner has matched with some great saves of his own and 41 saves. Lawler chanting “Sam Marotta” as I type this.

Bigos got hurt and skated to the locker room holding his left shoulder area, but came out quickly after. Dennehy has changed lines late in the third. Off to OT.

End of 2nd: Merrimack 1, Boston College 1

Overall a pretty boring period. Both teams looked fairly even, and after a 20-7 Merrimack SOG advantage in the first things evened up in the second with Merrimack holding a much closer 11-9 SOG advantage. Both teams had a few breakaway chances followed by great stick checks from the respective defensemen to break up the play. Although the game has gotten chippy in the latter half of the period, there were no penalties called the entire 20 minutes.

Jerry York called his timeout with 1:02 to play in the period and, frankly, the Merrimack fan in me panicked. However, a nice defensive stand from the Warriors in the final minute left the Eagles empty handed and both teams headed to the locker rooms with the score still tied at 1. Merrimack has certainly looked like the better team for most of this game, but with the score tied BC can easily take over. Merrimack has to start capitalizing like they did towards the end of the first.

Remember, as College Hockey News’ Mike McMahon pointed out earlier, a win brings Merrimack to 13th in the PWR, a loss drops them to 24th, and a tie keeps them at 19th. Puck drops for the third in under 10 minutes, so follow me on Twitter for live updates.

End of 1st

With the game being televised nationally on CBS Sports Network, the fans at Lawler came out ready to rock. From puck drop this place has been relatively loud. As small as it is, Lawler has to be one of the most difficult, intimidating places to play. Imagine a small high school gym for basketball game when fans are on top of you and making ridiculous amounts of noise. It’s a fairly similar atmosphere here.

BC came out strong, drawing a penalty from Merrimack Captain Jordan Heywood in the first minute. It seemed they had taken command of this game early, even though Merrimack was able to kill the penalty. Fortunately, the Warriors came out gunning afterwards. The second line of Gustafsson-Bates-Myers played very well, throwing shots on net, posting up in front of Milner, and providing an excellent forecheck on turnovers.

BC caught Merrimack in the midst of a change a few minutes later, and Bill Arnold made a great play using his body to fend off the Merrimack d-men and make a nice pass to Steve Whitney on the left wing who fired a beautiful shot past Marotta on the breakaway.

Oddly enough, following every TV timeout BC was starting a Power Play. On the second of these, Shawn Bates finally found the back of the net at 12:43 after a gritty sequence for the Warriors. Vinny Scotti originally put a shot on net that produced a juicy rebound, and Ben Bahe and Bates chipped away with about 5 shots until Bates’ finally crossed the goal line.

Follow live updates on Twitter at @PatBradleyUSCHO

Gustafsson Moves to 2nd Line

John Gustafsson celebrates his first career goal at Boston College on November 16th

John Gustafsson celebrates his first career goal at Boston College on November 16th

 

In light of Clayton Jardine’s fractured tibula plateau last Sunday at Providence, Freshman John Gustafsson is active and playing in Jardine’s left wing spot today for Merrimack.

Gustafsson is a nice option on a line that was finally starting to click together. With experienced junior Shawn Bates centering sophomore wing Josh Myers as well, Gustafsson adds speed to an already speedy lineup. He also has a strong shot and great finishing ability, so look for that second line to really press BC with their speed today, creating mismatches, rebounds and easy chip ins on open nets.

Gustafsson has 5 points (1-4-5) in 23 games played this season. His only previous goal came against Boston College in November 16th this season. Gustafsson also scored in an exhibition against the US Under 18 Team in December.

The Jardine-Bates-Myers line had seemingly just found their groove, highlighted by 2 huge goals in the January 26th game at UNH, a 4-1 Merrimack victory.

If Merrimack wins today, they move up to 13th in the Pairwise Rankings, meaning if the playoffs started tomorrow, which they don’t, Merrimack would be one of 16 teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

There’s A Storm Coming, Boston College

Connor Toomey scores the game-winner in OT last week against BC

Connor Toomey scores the game-winner in OT last week against BC

There’s a blizzard outside for the third weekend in a row. The weathermen originally predicted another monstrous storm to hit us, but in the wake of those comments the predictions were scaled back and it’s been a relatively quiet weekend as far as snow goes. About an hour ago, no one expected anything significant to happen. Now, just 2 hours before puck drop, it’s snowing so hard it may never snow again. How appropriate.

After Merrimack stormed back into the National Conversation in the past few weeks, capped by a 2-1 overtime victory against Boston College last weekend, things have seemingly calmed a bit. Last week, the anticipation before the game was practically palpable as you walked through campus; every one was buzzing about the Battle for First. The last few days, however, things have cooled unseasonably, but today’s matchup remains crucial to both Merrimack’s playoff dreams and BC’s playoff seeding. With a Merrimack victory, they jump to 13th place in the Pairwise Ranking, good for a spot in the NCAA Tournament should the season end tomorrow.

Maybe it’s a a trap to lure in the unsuspecting Eagles, although after last week’s gritty win from the Warriors, unsuspecting isn’t quite the word I’d expect to us to describe BC. This blizzard could be a sign of things to come this afternoon. It’s about time someone else claimed the Hockey East throne, and while Merrimack stands atop the perch, it’s a damn good time to make one final statement to the perennial champions. There’s a storm coming, Boston College. Look out.

Keys to the Game:

Stay on the Ice!

Merrimack did a really good job of playing intelligent hockey last week to stay out of the penalty box. In total, Merrimack only committed 5 penalties, while BC committed 10, including four in the third period and overtime. The OT Power Play would ultimately give Merrimack the victory as Connor Toomey scored the advantage goal while Pat Mullane was in the box for interference. BC has killed right around 86% of it’s penalties and scored on about 22% of opponents’. If you translate those numbers to the NHL, BC would be ranked 6th and 9th, respectively. Merrimack does not want to get into a special teams battle.

Part of playing smart means smart hitting, which Merrimack in the past has struggled with. They need to get out and make some big hits early, simply sending a message that says “Hey, we’re here. This is our house. We’re not backing down.” If  BC comes out and runs the table, sending Merrimack bodies flying in the first, it’ll be a long afternoon. Clip those wings and hurt their confidence early and it’ll go a long way.

Defense, Defense, Defense!

Merrimack defenders love to dive on the ice and block pucks and did so again last week, blocking 17 shots taken by BC shooters. Diving for pucks and saving the goalie is a staple of Merrimack hockey, and they need to keep it up if they want to win again today. While Sam Marotta is playing tremendously in net, BC has 5 players with 20 or more points, and 3 above 30. This team is tremendously skilled and will pepper Marotta with shots every chance they get, especially if they get rolling on the Power Play. Marotta may be playing like a superstar right now, but he can’t do it alone.

Capitalize on Offensive Chances

You’re not going to score a lot of pretty goals on these BC defensemen. Period. Parker Milner is playing some of the best hockey of his career in net as a senior as well, and while he’s never really played well at Merrimack, he’s still very good. Merrimack needs to get into their offensive rhythm early on and consistently keep it at their pace throughout the game, period-to-period. They can very easily score goals in bunches, but BC may be the biggest threat to match this feat in the league, as evidenced by the teams’ first meeting where Merrimack scored 3 goals in 5 minutes to take a commanding 3-0 lead, only to watch it disappear 7 minutes later. They need to get the puck on net, get a defender in front of Milner to block his view, and just keep chipping away until an ugly goal or 3 find the back of the net.

Follow live updates on Twitter at @PatBradleyUSCHO

Your Turn : Who wins today?