Marcus Antonelli – Sports Editor
NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack has a huge weekend slate in front of them. One where the results could be energy-shifting for a group that has been battling many difficulties early on this year. The Warriors currently have a 6-6-1 overall record and have been bouncing around the 20-30 seed range in the National Pairwise Rankings. As for their Hockey East record, they are in 7th place with a record of 2-4-1. These are numbers they are looking to turn around before the fall semester finishes.
This weekend, they have a chance to gain some huge points in the conference. Walking away with two wins would give the Warriors a top 5 spot in the Hockey East and I’d be surprised if they didn’t sneak their way back into the Top 20 rankings in the nation. The one thing standing in their way is that they have to beat the Boston University Terriers.
The Terriers have been one of the best teams in the nation. They are 3rd in the country at a comfortable 9-4-1 record. Earlier in the year, they didn’t have the best start, almost sinking to a .500 record. But in November, BU got back on track.
Most recently, they split their weekend series with North Dakota (6), they swept UMaine (5), and they defeated the defending national champion Quinnipiac Bobcats (2), pretty good right?
Along with the national rankings, BU has continued its expected dominance in the Hockey East, sitting in first place with 17 points, that’s 5 wins out of 7 conference games. They currently have six players in the Hockey East top ten scoring leaders.
Who’s leading them you may ask? Only the projected number #1 overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. Macklin Celebrini, the freshman forward, has 15 points in just 6 conference games played. Across all games, he’s scored 22 points, that’s tied for 3rd in the country. To be real, he’s got skill.
Their other X factor is a familiar face on the back end in Lane Hutson. The sophomore is currently second in the conference in scoring among defensemen, with 10 points. And if we recall, he also ended our hopes and dreams of the Hockey East Championship in overtime last year. Let’s just say he hasn’t had much of a ‘sophomore slump.’
Most recently, the Terriers lost to Cornell at Madison Square Garden in Red Hot Hockey, which broke their 5 game-win streak. Merrimack on the other hand is buzzing on a two-game winning streak, winning the Turkey Leg Classic over Army and Bentley. The Warriors without a doubt have the edge in that category.
Merrimack swept BU in the regular season series last year. Dominating the first match at home with a 4-1 score, then stunning the Terriers at their house in overtime, 4-3. Ultimately the Terriers got their revenge in the conference championship. This is a sure thorn in the side for returning Warriors from last year’s Cinderella run.
The Warriors typically play a more gritty and forceful style that when executed efficiently, works to their advantage. Especially when you’re playing a team that plays more with their sticks than their bodies. It should be an interesting weekend for our Warriors. The boys will face BU this Friday at Lawler at 7 p.m., then the day after they’ll head down to Agganis Arena where it’ll be a 6 p.m. puck drop.