Merrimack College opens its season tonight when it travels to No. 5 Union, which qualified for last year’s Frozen Four.
The Warriors will usher in a new era in goal, with either junior Sam Marotta or sophomore Rasmus Tirronen stepping into the crease in place of Joe Cannata, who started all but one game his final two seasons in North Andover.
It’s likely that Marotta and Tirronen will split time early this season while head coach Mark Dennehy tries to pin down his full-time starter.
The Warriors, picked to finish eighth in Hockey East by the league’s coaches and seventh in the annual media poll, will be looking to find some scoring punch from a large crop of underclassmen. The Warriors averaged 2.76 goals per game last season, but graduated four of the team’s top five scorers.
Opening well: Merrimack is 7-2-2 in its last 11 season openers.
History on their side: Merrimack is 19-7-3 lifetime against Union with a 7-4 record against the Dutchmen at Messa Rink. Last season, Union defeated Merrimack, 3-1, at Lawler Arena.
First of two with Dutchmen: In a scheduling oddity, Merrimack will play Union tonight, and then against in December at Vermont’s Christmas tournament.
The youngsters: Of Merrimack’s 27 players, 16 are either freshmen or sophomores while there are just four seniors on the team.
Big(os) penalty numbers: Senior defenseman Kyle Bigos enters this season with 346 career penalty minutes. The 6-foot-5 California native needs just 54 more – he racked up 125 last season – to break the program’s all-time record of 400, set by “Two-Minute” Tom Costa from 1992-96.
Looking for W’s: Merrimack’s senior class needs just 10 wins to become the program’s all-time winningest class in the Division 1 era. Also, if Merrimack qualifies for the postseason, this will be the first time to qualify for the playoffs in each of their four seasons since the league expanded to 10 teams in 2005.
Merrimack vs. Union Where: Messa Rink (Union) When: Tonight, 7 p.m. Radio: WGAM (1200 and 950 AM or WGAMthegame.com) TALE OF THE TAPE Note: 2011-12 statistics used Category Merrimack Union Record 18-12-7 26-8-7 Goals For 2.76 3.49 Goals Against 2.24 1.83 Shots For 30.5 35.0 Shots Against 29.4 26.2 Penalty Kill 81.2 84.5 Power Play 18.0 24.2