DURHAM — Time and time again, No. 3 New Hampshire peppered Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta with shot after shot, but the junior turned aside 51 of the 52 he faced as the Warriors beat the Wildcats, 4-1, at the Whittemore Center last night.
The win moved Merrimack (12-10-5, 10-6-2 in Hockey East) into third place in Hockey East. The Warriors are idle until a date with fourth-place Boston University on Friday at BU’s Agganis Arena.
“Marotta played a very good game,” said a frustrated UNH head coach Dick Umile. “He put himself in position to make the saves on shots I don’t even think he saw. We had plenty of opportunities to score and we didn’t score.”
The Warriors were outshot 52-24, including 40-16 over the final two periods.
Marotta, who waited patiently behind All-American goaltender Joe Cannata the last two seasons, is now second in the conference with a 2.09 goals-against average and first in Hockey East with a .929 save percentage.
“The way it’s going they’ll have to change the name of the game from hockey to goalie,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “Obviously Sam played well. We bent, but we didn’t break.”
The Warriors have just one loss in their last seven games (6-1-1), a streak that has propelled them back into national conversation. Entering the night, Merrimack was 26th in the Pairwise rankings, the system the NCAA uses to determine teams and seeds for the NCAA tournament.
After last night’s victory, the Warriors jumped to 23rd. Typically, the top 15 teams make the tournament, with the 16th spot going to the Atlantic Hockey tournament winner. But Niagara, which leads Atlantic Hockey, is also ninth in the Pairwise, meaning if they win their conference tournament and stay in the top-16, there could in essence be an extra at-large team that gets an invite.