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October 4, 2012

College hockey: Merrimack prepares for life without Cannata

NORTH ANDOVER — Imagine the guy that has to fill Tom Brady’s shoes?

That’s the situation Merrimack College goaltenders Sam Marotta and Rasmus Tirronen find themselves in this season.

Joe Cannata graduated last spring after playing a significant role in changing the face of the hockey program over his four years, including setting numerous program records and guiding the Warriors to their first NCAA tournament appearance since joining Hockey East.

He is Merrimack’s Tom Brady.

Just like the problem the Patriots will be faced with in the next five years, the changing of the guard comes now for the Warriors.

Marotta, a junior from Bridgewater, has been terrific in 169 career minutes, including posting a shutout in his only career start last season against UConn.

Tirronen comes to the Warriors from Finland and will be a sophomore on the team after sitting out last season due to an NCAA issue with some of his paperwork. He did practice with the Warriors all of last season.

“They’re both emblematic of their own personalities,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “Sam is a go-getter, and I guess he’s sort of an over-achiever. He’s going to go out there and make a save. Ras is a little quieter, he lets things come to him and he’ll make the same saves but he will sit tight and let the pucks bounce off of him.”

The Warriors open the season on Saturday at No. 5 Union and, as of last night, Dennehy still hadn’t penciled in a starter. As things get started, expect to see a good sampling of what both Marotta and Tirronen have to offer.

“I don’t think we have enough data yet (to determine a long-term No. 1 goalie),” Dennehy said. “We’ll see where this takes us. Whether we take those guys and rotate early on and let someone claim it, we’ll see where it goes. Either way, we have two very good goalies who will be pushing each other all season and that’s a good thing.”

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