Playoff series are always played with intensity and emotion. This weekend's quarterfinal series between Merrimack and Boston University will have an added dimension of emotion due to the impending retirement of Jack Parker. The legendary BU coach is stepping down after 40 years as the bench boss of the Terriers.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy says he admires and looks up to the legendary coaches of the league. "It has just been a great honor to coach across the bench from the likes of Jack Parker and Jerry York and to see what makes them such great coaches," said Dennehy this week. "The game is going to lose one of its best coaches in the history of the game and one of its best ambassadors. I have more respect for Jack Parker than I can put into words," added the eighth year Merrimack coach.
The Terriers swept Merrimack during the regular season, winning all three convincingly. The Terriers top six forwards dominated the offensive end, skating with will into the slot and creating plenty of quality opportunities.
The key for the Terriers will be scoring early and attacking the Warriors defense that struggles when away from Lawler Arena. Wade Megan, Cason Hohmann, Evan Rodrigues, Danny O'Regan and Matt Nieto need to use their skill to find openings in the Merrimack defense.
Merrimack has struggled to score for much of the season, and definitely did in all three games against BU this season. The Warriors will have the luxury of playing a depleted BU blue line. Junior Garrett Noonan remains out with an upper body injury, and sophomore Alexx Privitera has been suspended for the rest of the season.
For Merrimack to win this series, juniors Mike Collins and Shawn Bates are going to have to have a big series offensively. The Warriors are seriously limited in their scoring ability. When Merrimack is playing their best hockey, they cycle the puck down low extremely well and take a lot of time in the opposition's zone.
Sam Marotta, the junior goaltender who carried the Warriors through their winning streak in late January and early February, was pulled in the last game between these two teams. The Bridgewater, Massachusetts native will probably need to steal a game or two of this series.
Merrimack's defense is going to need to clamp down. It is imperative the Warriors shutdown or at least lessen the effectiveness of the top two lines of the Terriers. Junior captain Jordan Heywood is certain to log a ton of ice time this weekend.
Either way, by Sunday night Jack Parker will have coached his last game or will have advanced to play at least one more game at the TD Garden.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.