EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

December 26, 2010

Warriors make it the "Big 5"

This is not your grandfather's Merrimack College hockey team.

This isn't your father's Merrimack College hockey team. Heck, this isn't the Merrimack College hockey team you watched last year, despite its invigorating season and electric playoff series with Boston University.

It's a new day in North Andover.

Since the 1990s, Hockey East has been dominated by the "Big 4" — Boston College, Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine — but this season things appear different.

One publication even touted the league as having a "Big 5."

The Warriors are the new addition to the equation.

Merrimack sits just outside a home playoff spot — in fifth place — just a point behind Maine at the semester break which marks almost half (15 of 34 games) of the Hockey East schedule.

On Thursday, Merrimack will open the second leg of its schedule at Army before visiting RIT on Saturday, a team that advanced to last year's Frozen Four in Detroit.

The next 19 games will define where the Warriors stand as a program. It's their time to prove they belong.

Not only are the Warriors in the top half of the league standings, they're currently on the bubble as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament, ranked 18th in the Pairwise Rankings.

Here are five reasons why the Warriors are a home-ice team in Hockey East:

1. Joe Cannata

If I'm head coach Mark Dennehy, there isn't a goalie in the league I'd rather have between the pipes than junior Joe Cannata.

Cannata is second in the league in both goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.925), but not even that tells the whole story. Cannata has played his best in the Warriors' biggest games.

In games against nationally-ranked opponents, Cannata is 2-2-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

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