By: Max Wolpoff
With the bar set so low from their inaugural season at 5-26-3 (3-18-3 Hockey East), improvement seemed inevitable for the Merrimack College Warriors. In their first 13 games, they are one win away from tying last season’s mark in their overall record and one win from last year’s Hockey East total.
Merrimack rode a wave in early October, defeating Maine in conference action before a dramatic overtime win against Robert Morris. A week later, they defeated the Northeastern Huskies by staving off a third period comeback.
Since those fireworks at Matthews Arena, the Warriors have fallen flat, losing their next four games to Providence, Connecticut, and two against Northeastern. The Warriors combined for seven goals in those four games while conceding 29. Of those seven goals for, three came on the power play.
Friday’s game will be the first meeting between these teams since January 30, a 6-2 win for Boston University. The Terriers returned to Lawler Rink a month later as part of the Hockey East Tournament. Following a come-from-behind win over Northeastern in the semifinals, BU lost the Hockey East title to Boston College the following afternoon.
FRIDAY: BU @ Merrimack, North Andover, Mass., 7 p.m.
Commentator: Max Wolpoff
SATURDAY: BU vs Merrimack, Agganis Arena, Boston, 3 p.m.
Commentators: Max Wolpoff and Jarret Leonard
MERRIMACK COLLEGE WARRIORS: 4-8-1, 2-5-0 Hockey East, goals per game: 2.54, goals allowed per game: 3.73
Despite Merrimack’s six non-losses in conference play last season, just four teams — BU, BC, Northeastern, and Maine — swept the Warriors outright. Two wins and a tie came against Vermont and their first conference win came against New Hampshire. BU outscored Merrimack in their games by a combined tally of 15-5.
Sophomores Jessica Bonfe and Paige Voight are even in the team points race, with seven goals and four assists each. They were the only players to tally goals against Northeastern last weekend Voight has goals in three of the last five games. Sophomore Katelyn Rae leads the team in goals with nine and shots with 51 while fellow sophomore Allison Sexton is the pacemaker at eight assists.
Out of their entire 24-woman roster, 15 are sophomores and two are redshirt-sophomores. The one true senior, Samntha Saulnier, played for the club team at Merrimack before becoming a Division I program. She has yet to play this season.
In goal, freshman Lea-Kristine Demers is at a 3.54 GAA and a .892 save percentage in 10 games played. She has been between the pipes for all four of Merrimack’s wins this season. Samantha Ridgewell, the sophomore, does have a tie against Robert Morris to her credit, but is at a 4.46 GAA and a .870 save percentage.
Five different players scored goals against BU in the three games last season. In all three contests, BU struck first, twice in the opening 90 seconds.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS: 5-5-1, 4-5-0 Hockey East, 3.7 goals per game, 3.3 goals allowed per game
Victoria Bach welcomed Merrimack to Hockey East play with a hat trick, the first of her collegiate career, in the inaugural meeting between these two teams. She is now two points shy of 100 for her career and two assists shy of 50.
In the seven games she has played with her current line-mates of Nina Rodgers to her left and Mary Parker to her right, the line has combined to produce 16 goals and 17 assists. Parker (17) and Bach (16) occupy top spots in the team points race.
Two other Terriers near the century mark are Rebecca Leslie (89) and Maddie Elia (86). Leslie has been knocking on 90 for the last few games, and still leads the team with nine assists. Despite 12 shots — including nine in Saturday’s game — against Maine, Elia was held to zero points in a weekend for the first time all season.
Leslie and Elia were joined by freshman Deziray De Sousa for the weekend series with Sammy Davis being reunited with Samantha Sutherland and Natasza Tarnowski. Sutherland got her first goal since the break-up of that trio in Friday’s comeback win over the Black Bears.
On the blue line, only two Terriers have scored goals and both came in the Penn State series: Alexis Crossley and Connor Galway. The BU defensive corps has combined for 22 assists in 11 games and only freshman Breanna Scarpaci has yet to tally a point. Granted, she is listed as the seventh defender and does not get a regular shift.
Junior Erin O’Neil started her fourth straight game last Saturday in the loss against Maine. She is still one win short of 30 for her collegiate career. Should Victoria Hanson play in this series, it would be her first playing time since a 4-3 loss against Northeastern four weeks ago. Ashlynn Aiello made her Hockey East debut in the 6-2 win last January, making two saves in 6:14 of playing time.
At Agganis Arena, BU is 6-1-1 overall and 4-0-1 when facing conference opponents. Last season, Hanson anchored a 5-1 win over Providence, featuring a two-goal night from Rebecca Leslie.