NORTH ANDOVER — The last two seasons weren’t the first time Merrimack College goaltender Sam Marotta had to bide his time behind former All-American Joe Cannata.
Back in 2006, Marotta was a junior at B.C. High in Boston. Going into the season, he was slated to be the starting goaltender. Then, this transfer from BB&N — by the name of Cannata — showed up at captains’ practice.
“I remember thinking, ‘oh, this guy isn’t that great,’ and he started the first seven games and didn’t give up a goal,” joked Marotta, who served as Cannata’s backup that season. “He ended up with a goals-against average that was around 0.90 or something, so then I was like, ‘OK, he’s pretty good, but I won’t have to see him again’ Then two years later, here we were again.”
After starting his senior year at B.C. High and then playing a year of junior hockey with the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, Marotta followed Cannata to Merrimack, where he served as Cannata’s backup again the last two seasons.
Now, the stage belongs to him.
With just a month left in the regular season, Marotta leads Hockey East in both goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.929), having won the starting gig after trading games with sophomore Rasmus Tirronen for the first half of the season.
“I’ve definitely relaxed a little bit,” Marotta said. “At the beginning of the year I was a little jumpy. I haven’t played in two years and I was moving too much. I’d let in one goal and worry because I know that Ras is a great goalie. I’ve definitely been more relaxed and playing better positionally, which I know helps.”
Marotta has also improved his rebound control and according to Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, is tracking the puck better than at any other time in his Merrimack career.