October 6, 2012 by Casey Hart
The 2012-13 Division I men’s college hockey season is officially underway.
There were three official games tonight, and I saw none of them. I’ll share some box-score reactions regardless.
The fact that this was the most surprising result of the night says a great deal about how good Union has been the past few years. Merrimack has been formidable as well but entered the year seemingly in danger of taking a step back after losing four of its top five scorers and goaltender Joe Cannata. Sam Marotta posted a shutout in his only start last season, though, and tonight ended the Dutchmen’s 11-game home unbeaten streak despite a 34-27 shots edge for Union. The Warriors’ offensive hero was Josh Myers, who scored twice after totaling just eight points (5-3-8) in 20 games as a rookie last season. His first tally broke a 1-1 deadlock at 2:42 of the third period. All in all, it was a strong statement that Merrimack is not ready to leave the national scene quietly.
The USCHO rankings in this matchup were a reversal of my preseason list, where the Bobcats were 15th and the Black Bears were left on the outside looking in on the top 20. For that reason, this result didn’t surprise me much, but it is still impressive. Alfond Arena is reputed as one of college hockey’s most intimidating environments, and to post an opening-night win in Orono is no easy feat. ECAC Hockey teams are familiar with all the scoring talent that returned to the Bobcats this year and might be worried that the win came without a goal from any of those players. Instead, it was a pair of newcomers, freshman Travis St. Denis and transfer Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who accounted for the goals. (Another freshman, Steven Swayley, accounted for the Black Bears’ goal.) Eric Hartzell, meanwhile, made 31 saves to overcome Maine’s 32-18 advantage in shots and set the stage for Samuels-Thomas to net the game-winner in the final two minutes.
Addendum: Maine was left without star Joey Diamond after a hit-from-behind major and game misconduct in the second period. That’s a tough spot for a team playing its first game, with little practice, after losing its other top scorers from last season. Quinnipiac, with all the chatter from people like me on its offensive prospects, registered three shots in the first period and four in the third.
In one corner, a BGSU squad that struggled through the 2011-12 regular season but entered this campaign anxious to build on a run to the CCHA semifinals that included a road series win at Frozen Four-bound Ferris State; in the other, a flock of Purple Eagles that returned nearly all its skaters and appears poised to compete for an Atlantic Hockey title despite breaking in a new starter in goal. The decision? Split, but it likely felt much better for Niagara, which managed a tie despite a 5-0 disadvantage in shots and a Bowling Green power play in overtime. And all that was after Chris Lochner scored with 50 seconds left in regulation to keep the Purple Eagles alive. I imagine NU fans are pleased with the performance of Carsen Chubak, who stopped 34 shots and was scored upon at even strength just once.