The Takeaway: Collins, Christie Lead Merrimack Past No. 4 UNH

Posted by: Mike McMahon

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Behind a three-point night from junior Mike Collins, including a pair of goals, Merrimack College defeated No. 4 New Hampshire on Friday night, 3-2.

With the win, Merrimack is now tied with Providence for fourth place in the Hockey East standings with one game-in-hand on the Friars and two points behind Boston University for second place in the Hockey East. UNH remains third in the league, one point behind BU and one point ahead of Merrimack and Providence.

The Warriors registered the game-winning goal just seven seconds into the third period as freshman Brian Christie won the opening draw back to Jordan Heywood who skated in over the line and found Christie in between the circles. Christie took the pass and unleashed a quick wrist shot over the blocker of UNH goaltender Jeff Wyer. Heywood and Collins picked up assists on Christie’s fourth goal of the season.

Merrimack (10-9-5, 8-5-2 HEA) will travel to Manchester, NH to take on the UNH Wildcats again Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Puck drop is set for 5:00 p.m. WGAM will be hosting a Merrimack hockey pregame party from Jillian’s, right across the street from the Verizon Wireless Arena from 2-4 p.m.

What I Saw

– For a brief moment, it appeared as if the No. 4 team in the country was going to do with the No. 4 team in the country was supposed to do, at least on paper.

After Merrimack College took a one-goal lead in the first period, the Wildcats struck twice in the first nine minutes of the second period to take the lead before Mike Collins tied the score just 32 seconds later. Then, Brian Christie goal just seven seconds into the third period sealed it for the Warriors.

– Merrimack junior goaltender Sam Marotta stopped 29 shots en route to his seventh win of the season. Since early December, Marotta boasts an impressive 1.30 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage, which are both top-five in the nation. Jeff Wyer, starting in place for Casey DeSmith, made 32 saves.

– UNH head coach Dick Umile told reporters that DeSmith will start Saturday vs. Merrimack at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

What I Thought

– Johnny Gaudreau is the best player in Hockey East. But, other than Gaudreau, name me someone who has played better than Mike Collins? You can’t. Collins keeps doing what he does best — everything. A three-point night for the junior brings his season total to 30 (which includes 13 goals) and his Hockey East total to 25, which leads the league (yes, even more than Gaudreau). But without the puck Collins has proved just as valuable. He saved a would-be UNH goal in the second period on a terrific backcheck, at the end of a shift, no less. He’s playing in every situation, including some key minutes on the penalty kill. The way he has played this season, Collins is more valuable to the Warriors than maybe any other player is to their team in Hockey East.

– Jeff Wyer played well in goal for the Wildcats. Merrimack tested him early and really was able to turn up the heat for large portions of the third period. The first and third periods were definitely Merrimack’s best, and they generated some quality chances. The Warriors’ power play was really clicking in the third period, generating two chances off the stick of Connor Toomey that one would typically think were sure things, but Wyer was there with a pad once, and a glove the second time.

– On the other side, Sam Marotta started his fourth game in a row for the Warriors. Starting with a 2-2 tie with Harvard last month, Marotta is 4-0-3 in his last seven starts, sporting a 1.38 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. The Warriors are 6-2-3 in their last 11 games, with Marotta starting seven of those games. Marotta has improved his rebound control tremendously and seems to be playing great positional hockey along and has to be gaining plenty of confidence.

– Merrimack freshman Brian Christie is getting better and better each night playing consistently with Mike Collins and Quinn Gould now for the past few weeks. He also made his debut on the point on one of the Warriors’ power-play units on Friday. He’s now tied with three other players for second on the team in scoring with 12 points. Dating back to the Army game, Christie has nine points (3g-6a–9pts) in his last nine games.

– UNH sophomore Casey Thrush has 11 points now on the season, including his second-period goal. Thrush has a lot of speed through the neutral zone and doesn’t shy away from taking or giving a hit. Remember that name, because Thrush is likely a player we’ll hear more about in the coming seasons.

What They Said

“We have to find a way tomorrow to split on the weekend … Collins’ (second goal), you know, they came right back (after UNH scored). Collins scored a great goal there on the short side. Heck of a shot by Collins.” – UNH head coach Dick Umile.

“Every game is a must-win for us. This makes tomorrow a lot more important,” – UNH defenseman Eric Knodel.

“It’s one of Coach (Glenn) Stewart’s primary roles, He has a real good feel for (scoring). Just HockeyDB him, he scored a lot of goals. … We had a lot of chances. We’re still trying to find that personnel. Sometimes, you just have to let it fire. At the end of the day, you have five guys and they have four, so you should get something.” – Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy on his PP, and the slight changes made there.

“I tried to go out the other side and then I came back to this side. Everyone was covered and no one (on UNH) came to me, so I had all the time in the world. I just skated out and put it on net and it flipped over his shoulder.” – Mike Collins on his second-period goal.

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