The Merrimack Warriors continue to be a team that leaves us scratching our heads. An 0-3 start to the season made it easy to write off this team early. But that was likely premature. That leads the three things I learned this week.
1. Merrimack might be hitting its stride?
I have had a difficult time all season trying to figure this team out. But a shutout on the road against an improved Wisconsin team last Saturday was followed up by a 5-1 victory over Providence on Friday, a game in which Merrimack exploded for five goals in the third period.
Coach Mark Dennehy said before the season that he liked the depth and maturity of this team and that may be beginning to shine through. Merrimack has an off week before they take on one of their toughest tests of the first half, a two-game series against Merrimack Valley rival UMass Lowell. That could be a weekend we learn the most about this club.
2. Vermont keeps Belpot in Hockey East
The trip across the pond to Belfast proved a victorious one for Vermont as the Catamounts won the Belpot Trophy, giving the crown to a Hockey East school for the second time. Everything about the victories was impressive.
Start on Friday in the first semifinal when the Cats looked like they left their legs in Burlington, getting outhustled by Massachusetts and falling behind, 2-0, in the first four minutes. But that’s when things changed. Some key penalty kills allowed Vermont to rally for that victory before crushing No. 3 Quinnipiac in the final, 5-1.
It was a very strong special teams weekend for Vermont, which went 3-for-8 on the man advantage and killed 12-of-13 penalties. Since a two-game sweep at the hands of Lowell, Vermont has gone 5-0-1 and now sits in in second place in Hockey East.
3. Impressive rally for the Huskies
Northeastern took a long time last season to gel as a team. And while this year’s Huskies, the defending Hockey East champs, haven’t exactly been barnstorming through the first half, Friday’s 6-4 victory over Minnesota could be galvanizing.
Trailing, 4-2, in the third, Northeastern exploded for four goals, two off the stick of Dylan Sikura, who finished the game with a hat trick.
The Huskies have a very odd schedule leading up to break. They will play a home-and-home with Boston College split up over the next two Tuesday night. Then after a week off, NU travels to Michigan State for a single game on Dec. 18 to close the first half.