Last Season: 18-12-7 (13-9-5) 5th in Hockey East
(F) Ryan Flanigan (graduated), (F) Jesse Todd (graduated), (F) Jeff Velleca (graduated), (G) Joe Cannata (Vancouver Canucks – graduated), (D) Karl Stollery (graduated)
’12-’13 Recruit Class:
(F) Vinny Scotti – Vineland, NJ – Jr. Bruins (EJHL)
(F) Brian Christie – West Chester, PA – Topeka (NAHL)
(F) Ben Bahe – Stillwater, MN – Topeka (NAHL)
(F) John Gustafsson – Lgunby, Sweden – Amarillo (NAHL)
(F) Justin Hussar – Lancaster, NY – Des Moines (USHL)
(D) Sean Robertson – Cobble Hill, BC – Vernon (BCHL)
(D) Matt Cronin – Langley, BC – Surrey (BCHL)
(G) Rasmus Tirronen – Espoo, Finland – Topeka (NAHL)
BF’s Hockey East Recruit Class Rank: 9 – Brian Christie brings some much needed scoring punch to the Warrior lineup but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of star power amongst the ’12 class arriving in North Andover – several B+ recruits in the Forum’s opinion. Tirronen (although not a true freshman) will challenge Sam Marotta for time between the pipes as Merrimack looks to replace the graduated Joe Cannata in net – certainly an unenviable task.
BF’s Recruit to Watch: Brian Christie – Merrimack is a team in desperate need of scoring punch as the Warrior’s graduated 4 of their top scorers from an offensively inept team of a year ago. Christie amassed somewhat impressive numbers last year (22G, 24A) for Topeka of the NAHL playing alongside fellow ’12 recruit, Ben Bahe. There certainly seems to be a connection between the Merrimack recruit staff and the Topeka program which the Eagle tribune’s Mike McMahon thinks is related to an assistant coach’s relationship based on perennial recruiting.
CHP asked the experts for an ‘Insider’s Take’:
Merrimack HC, Mark Dennehy’s take –
On the loss of Cannata
“There may be a natural edge for Sam [Marotta ]because he has been here for two years and played well when he has had the chance. But beyond that the position open. We have only gone with one goaltender for two out of my seven years here. I am excited about our depth in that position.”
On the expected contribution of the ’12 recruit class
“I think a number of the seven will make significant contributions. Still, we will be led by our upperclassmen. Any team which relies too heavily on their younger players will end the season in disappointment.”
BF’s Prognosis: No one has done more with less resources than Merrimack head coach, Mark Dennehy. The 8th year head coach and newly appointed associate AD has propelled the program to unprecedented heights – a #1 national ranking and 1st ever NCAA tournament appearance – all while overcoming un-imaginable obstacles. Despite the non-brand program name and sub-par facilities, Dennehy has instilled a sense of pride in a program that will no longer accept the losing mentality.
That said, the 2012-13 Merrimack team simply has too many voids to fill. Stalwart netminder and Wakefield, MA native, Joe Cannata graduated and moved on to the pro ranks – filling his shoes will be a dubious task indeed. The Warriors lose 80% of their top 5 scorers from last season coupled with the fact that they were an abysmal offensive team last season (8th in HEA and 35th in the nation, 2.76 g/pg). Offensively, Merrimack loses top scorer Ryan Flanigan (11-18-29) along with Jesse Todd (12-15-27) and Jeff Velleca (10-9-19).
Defensively, Karl Stollery will be dearly missed on the blue line and this year’s team will rely heavily on hulking 6ft5” defenseman and Edmonton Oiler property, Kyle Bigos to protect the inexperience in goal. Merrimack was a solid defensive team last season and will continue to play an efficient, gritty game as long as Dennehy is behind the bench. The Warriors allowed a Hockey East best 83 goals last season but how much of that segment of the game can be attributed to the stellar play of Cannata versus the defense?
Coach Dennehy made it explicitly clear to me that much like Bruins head coach, Claude Julien, he trusts his veterans. As a result, you would expect Bridgewater, MA native Sam Marotta to get the bulk of the minutes in net, giving him the slight edge over newcomer Rasmus Tirronen (Espoo, Finland). Despite having only 1 career start, Marotta can look no further than fellow South Shore native, Doug Carr for a model to follow.
Up front, fellow veteran Mike Collins will be looked upon to carry a large percentage of the offensive load but if Merrimack wants to contend for a playoff spot, it will be incumbent upon the likes of Shawn Bates, Josh Myers and sophomore, Connor Toomey to step up their production and take a significant maturation leap over last season.
Beanpot Forum Predicted Hockey East Position: 9th – An offensively challenged team loses 80% of its top scoring production and the stingy Joe Cannata between the pipes – not to mention welcoming in just an average ’12 recruit class. As the venerable, Bill Clinton would say, it’s a matter of simple arithmetic that doesn’t add up for this year’s Merrimack squad.