Looking to keep its undefeated record intact, Merrimack travels to Erie, Pa. this weekend for a two-game series at Atlantic Hockey Association preseason favorite Mercyhurst.
The Warriors, off to a 3-0 start after last weekend's comeback win over UConn, have drastically improved their goaltending over a season ago. A lot of observers pointed to the lack of offense in 2013-14, but the team's combined .890 save percentage was a significant factor in Mark Dennehy's squad winning just eight games.
Through three games this season Rasmus Tirronen has a .943 save percentage. The team's puck possession numbers have been better and the energy, intensity and forecheck has been back to Merrimack's typical levels through the Dennehy era.
However, these two games at Mercyhurst pose the toughest test yet for the Warriors. Rick Gotkin's club is loaded offensively, led by senior captain Matthew Zay. The Glendale, NY native had three assists in the Lakers' 4-2 win over Air Force. Zay, considered one of the better undrafted NCAA free agents, is one point shy of 100 for his career.
It's not just about Zay. Senior Ryan Misiak has 95 career points after being held scoreless in the opening weekend in Colorado Springs. Daniel Bahntge, Chris Bodo, Nardo Nagtzaam and Kyle Just are other veteran forwards that will pose a threat to the Warrior defense.
The Laker coaching staff is high on several of the team's rookies, but especially freshman Johnathan Charbonneau. The former Kimball Union Academy star had a goal and an assist over the first two games.
The two teams split their series in North Andover last October. Mercyhurst won, 3-2, the first game before Merrimack salvaged the split with a 5-2 victory in the series finale.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.