After a strong 1-0-1 showing against Mercyhurst to open the season, the Saints head to Merrimack this weekend, looking to stay undefeated against the Warriors, who are in just their third season as a Division I sport, but opened the year with a statement, defeating BU and Minnesota. The Saints and Warriors have played once before, in Merrimack’s inaugural season of 2015-16, when SLU took a 6-2 victory at Appleton. The Warriors enter this weekend at 2-2-1 while the Saints enter 1-0-1.
With Clarkson looming on the horizon, two good weekends to start the season will be important for the Saints, and that means they’ll need the goals to keep coming. Their 4-1 victory against the Lakers on Friday was a good sign, but only mustering a lone goal and 19 shots in a game two tie on Saturday has to have the Saints chomping at the bit to put pucks on net this weekend.
Hannah Miller and Kennedy Marchment each have two goals on the young season, and their continued success will be crucial for SLU as the offensive leaders for the team. Justine Reyes has also opened her junior season strong with a goal and an assist through two games, Grace Harrison continued to shut the door on teams, allowing just one goal in each of the two games against Mercyhurst.
Given that it’s so early in the season, it’s tough to tell what kind of team Merrimack is. They can put up four goals against Minnesota, but only managed two goals in two games against UNH, which isn’t exactly a Hockey East powerhouse. Junior Katelyn Rae leads the Warriors in goals with three, including a power play goal and shorthanded goal, but they’re mostly a young team, something SLU can definitely exploit with a good forecheck and constant pressure. Their PK has struggled so far, at just 77%, which is a good sign for a SLU team that needs to get their power play going.
SLU’s PK looked good against Mercyhurst, but the power play got plenty of action and only managed one goal. The Saints have to replace two of their mainstays on the power play in Brooke Webster and Kirsten Padalis, so the early season may be a little rough, but Merrimack is a team that SLU should get plenty of good scoring chances against when they have the advantage.
This shouldn’t be too stressful of a weekend for SLU. Yes, they should be mindful that Merrimack is capable of beating good teams, but as long as the Saints are responsible with the puck for 60 minutes, they should be fine. This is an opportunity to continue to establish good habits, get the rookies even more acclimated to college hockey, and work the parts of their system that might need to be fine-tuned before they face Clarkson, and hopefully spoil their banner raising ceremony.