Preview: Huskies vs Merrimack
The Northeastern Huskies will be hoping to get off to a winning start when theyhost the Merrimack Warriors at Matthews Arena on Wednesday night.
The contest will be the season opener for Northeastern and it will be the first Hockey East game of the season. Merrimack enters 1-0 after defeating Union 4-1 on the road last Friday.
How to Watch: Free HD Stream
How to Listen: WRBB Sports
Five Things to Watch
1. How will Northeastern’s young defenseman do in their debut?
No one is expecting a perfect performance, but the Huskies had loads of defensive lapses in their exhibition game. Coach Madigan mentioned that the pace of the game is the hardest thing for these newcomers to adjust to. The coaching staff will try to put them in positions to succeed, but with so many young guys, it will be really hard to ease them into action. Expect either 2 or 3 of the newcomers to be in the lineup and see important minutes. Mistakes will be made, but hopefully the supporting cast can bail them out.
2. What will the Huskies get from Chris Rawlings?
With the aforementioned young defense, the Huskies need Rawlings to come up big now more than ever. He has shown that he can. But he also shown he is capable of going the other way and letting soft goals cost the team points. Rawlings needs a good year if he wants to play at the next level. The Huskies need a good year from him if they want to have success. He will likely be called upon to bail out the defense for at least the first few months. This game will be his first chance to prove that he can do that.
3. What about Merrimack’s goaltending situation?
The Warriors were able to survive PD (Post-DaCosta) thanks to the amazing play of Joe Cannata. With Cannata now gone, Merrimack is no longer considered one of the top teams in Hockey East. Sam Marrota made 33 saves in the win over Union, allowing just 1 goal. It was just the second start of his 3 year career at the ‘Mack. The effort earned him Defensive Player of the Week honors in Hockey East, but then again, its pretty easy when no one else is playing. The Warriors also have sophomore Rasmus Tirronen, who has never played a game. He missed last season due to eligibility, but he figures to see time this year. Merrimack will probably start the hot hand in Marrota.
4. Roy Mania
Just the mere thought of Kevin Roy got many Huskies excited for this season. He showed why on Sunday. He is a special player and he will be getting Top 6 minutes right off the bat. Expectations will probably be set at unrealistic heights for him after guys like Johnny Gaudreau and Scott Wilson tore up Hockey East last year. Remember, he is a freshman, he will likely struggle at times. It should be fun to see him skate with Braden Pimm and Cody Ferriero, but there is no guarantee the line will click from the get go. He will be a great player and will likely finish the year among the team leaders in scoring, but be patient with him in his first couple games.
5. First Team to Score Ten Wins?
Northeastern has got questions on defense (and in net, depending on who you talk to), but they have what should be a high powered offense. No matter who they start, Merrimack’s goalie will be unproven. Merrimack was supposed to have trouble scoring this season, but they put 4 past a strong Union team. All signs point to shootout that would have been heresy under Greg Cronin. The Huskies may need this game to be a high scoring matchup, because the biggest advantage they have over the Warriors is offensive talent.
Projected Lineup for Northeastern
Its the home opener. The players will be wired right from the start. Controlling emotion will be key for the Huskies. I expect the top 6 to get a ton of minutes, until the third line proves it can be trusted. Merrimack is not known for their discipline, so the Huskies will get plenty of chances to work on the power play. Thankfully, there is no way it can get any worse than it was last year. It would be great for Chris Rawlings to really step up and have a huge game. I think that would ease a lot of nerves. When this team ripped off 8 straight wins last year, Rawlings was on top of his game and the team played confidently in front of him. If they can get back to that, it will help the new guys settle in and hopefully allow the Huskies to get off to a strong start for the the first time in forever. It should be an exciting game no matter what.
We will leave you with this list of great things about Merrimack: