Matt LaMalfa, ’12, Associate Sports Editor
This Friday night, the 4th ranked Merrimack Warriors take on the 3rd ranked Boston University Terriers in what is being called “possibly the biggest regular season game ever at Lawler Arena”. The game is already sold-out to the general public and only a few student tickets remain. Before heading out to the game on Friday, it is important to understand what is happening around the league this weekend and beyond.
There aren’t many leagues, in any sport, where you can win the one game you play during a weekend and move down two places in the standings. That was the case over the last week for our Warriors, who downed Providence College 4-2 on Sunday but found themselves down two spots from, 2nd to 4th position, in Hockey East when Monday morning rolled around.
Every year, teams go on streaks. Boston College is notorious for starting slowly but then looking unbeatable when playoffs roll around. Boston University often trends the opposite direction, starting strong but then sputtering down the stretch.
This season however, every weekend seems to be a season in itself. Look at the University of Maine. The ever-relevant Black Bears started the season with a home loss to the Warriors and continued to play up and down hockey through the Christmas break. After returning to the ice, they reeled off four straight victories before coming into Lawler Arena and losing and tying a game in the weekend series. Since then, they have recorded two game weekend sweeps over BC and BU respectively. See any trends there?
Also intriguing are the Northeastern Huskies. A peek at their non-conference schedule this year makes them look like national title contenders. Wins at Michigan, Minnesota, and sweep at Notre Dame show a very different picture than the six conference wins, which currently leaves the Huskies out of the Hockey East playoffs. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Merrimack has withstood the cosmic swings to an extent, putting together a successful season with only a slump around the break throwing them temporarily off course. Ten games remain on the schedule for the Warriors, with an even five away and five here in North Andover. At this point, Merrimack holds the final home ice position for the Hockey Easy playoffs and if the season ended today would host Umass-Lowell here at Lawler in the first round. In case you are new to the process the top eight teams in Hockey East make the conference playoffs with the top four of those earning home ice advantage. There are still plenty of changes to come though, as just a miniscule three points separate the first and fifth place teams in Hockey East. The next two weeks could allow the Warriors to move up with victories since BU and BC have lighter schedules due to the Beanpot. This allows for bizarre changes, such as Merrimack’s drop this past weekend.
If readers want one thing to expect the rest of the way it’s expect more of that. Of the final 10 games, two are against BC and one more remains against the BU Terriers. Also don’t forget, the Warriors are yet to take on UMass and UMass-Lowell this season. Both of these teams are markedly improved over last season and will make opponents fight for every inch.
So as the college hockey season enters the stretch run, the Warriors enter the gauntlet against BU here at Lawler Arena on Friday night in what could turn out to be the game of the year to this point. From that point, the intensity will only ramp up over the remainder of the season.
Whether you’re a college hockey diehard, supporter of Warrior athletics, or a bored student on a Friday night, there’s never been a more exciting time to catch a game.