NORTH ANDOVER, MA - Playing its first game as the top-ranked team in the country in school history, Merrimack received four goals from freshmen, defeating Alabama-Huntsville 6-0 Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 2,489 at Lawler Arena.
The only unbeaten team in the country, Merrimack (9-0-1, 6-0-1 HEA) will open a home-and-home series with Providence next Friday at 7 p.m. at Schneider Arena in a game televised by COX. Saturday's game will be at Lawler Arena at 7 p.m.
12-0-1 at Lawler in its last 13 games, Merrimack improved to 30-5-3 at home since the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign.
Twelve Warriors, including five defensemen, picked up points in the victory, while Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA), who entered the game second in the country in goals-against and fourth in save percentage, made 13 saves for his 50th career victory and his first shutout of the season and sixth of his career.
The sellout was Merrimack's fifth in as many home games this year and 10th straight dating back to last season.
The Warriors wasted no time as Connor Toomey (Billerica, MA) netted his second and third collegiate goals 1:57 apart early in the first, giving him three straight goals dating back to Merrimack's last game, a 3-2 OT win at BU. Toomey's first was a redirect off a wrister from Mike Wills (Oakwood, ON) at 4:57. Then at 6:54, Toomey took feeds from Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) and Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB) to make it 2-0.
At 8:32, Clayton Jardine (Lacombe, AB) tallied his first career goal and point with a wrist shot high over the glove of John Griggs. Quinn Gould (Ft. McMurray, AB), who worked the puck to Jardine, notched his first collegiate point, giving the Warriors their first three-goal first period of the season.
Gould opened the second with his first career goal, taking feeds from Jardine and Justin Mansfield (Arlington, MA) at 4:19, giving the hosts the 4-0 lead.
After not getting a point from the freshmen class in the first eight games, six of the last seven goals were tallied by freshmen before Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) made it 5-0 on the power play, taking feeds from Mike Collins (Boston, MA) and Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, BC) at 12:05 for his team-leading sixth of the year.
With the Warriors on the two-man advantage, Jesse Todd (Camrose, AB) picked up the sixth goal, as he put home a rebound off a Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA) slap shot for his fourth at 16:15. Five Warriors posted multi-point efforts in the win, led by the first career two-point performances from Gould, Jardine, and Toomey.
With the win, the Warriors have concluded the first two months of play without a loss for the first time in their Hockey East history. No team in college hockey has entered December without a loss in at least the last 14 seasons. It is believed the last team to enter December unbeaten was the 1992-93 Maine Black Bears, who went 42-1-2 en route to the National Championship.
Merrimack went 2-for-5 on the power play and improved off its top-ranked penalty kill, going a perfect 5-for-4. The Warriors outshot the Chargers 48-13, including 17-1 in the second period.
Before the game, Merrimack teamed up with the Thomas E. Smith Foundation and Andover native Tucker Millin to donate $15,000 to the Friends and Family of Chic Kelly Foundation in honor of former Merrimack hockey player and student Chic Kelly. As a freshman at a practice, Kelly was tripped during a routine shooting drill and sent crashing head first into the boards and was left a C-5 quadriplegic. More information can be found at www.chickelly.com.
The Chargers will head to Lowell on Friday and New Hampshire Saturday in search of their first win of the year in their final season of Division I hockey.