Weekend Preview: UND vs. Merrimack

For the second season in a row, North Dakota plays an unfamiliar opponent on opening weekend.  After losing to Massachusetts 3-2 at the Icebreaker Invitational (Boston, MA) last year, the Fighting Sioux are hoping for better results against the Warriors of Merrimack (North Andover, MA).

The Warriors do not return a 10-goal scorer this season (North Dakota returns three) and will struggle to score this year, at least until highly-touted recruit Stephane Da Costa (fourth in USHL scoring in 2008-09) makes it through the NCAA Clearinghouse and is allowed to play.

Merrimack’s lone NCAA Division I tournament appearance came at the end of the 1987-1988 season.  The Warriors won a Division II hockey championship in 1978.

Merrimack Team Profile

Head Coach: Mark Dennehy (5th season at Merrimack, 30-89-17, .283)
National Ranking: NR
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 9-21-4, 5-19-3 Hockey East (9th)
Key Returning Players (last season‘s statistics): Junior F Chris Barton (9-14-23), Sophomore F Jesse Todd (7-16-23), Junior F Joe Cucci (7-11-18), Sophomore D Karl Stollery (5-11-16), Sophomore G Joe Cannata (7-11-4, 2.35 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 130-71-19, .634)
National Ranking: #6
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Key Returning Players (last season‘s statistics): Senior F Chris VandeVelde (18-17-35), Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (12-17-29), Sophomore F Brett Hextall (12-14-26), Senior D Chay Genoway (3-29-32), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (24-12-4, 2.56 GAA, .906 SV%, 1 SO)

Game News and Notes

Friday’s contest will mark the first ever meeting between these two teams. Merrimack sophomore goaltender Joe Cannata and North Dakota freshman forward Danny Kristo were teammates on the U.S. Under-18 team.  Before the start of the series, North Dakota will unveil their 2008-09 WCHA Championship banner, the 14th conference championship in the history of the program.

The Prediction

Merrimack lost 14 of 18 one-goal games last season, but this weekend’s games won’t be that close.  All four forward lines should figure in the scoring for the Sioux, and that spells trouble for the Warriors.   UND 4-1, 6-2

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