Joe Cannata Returns in Net as Hockey East Darling Merrimack Looks to Build Off Best Season in School History

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Editor's note: NESN.com will preview each Hockey East school this week.

For only the second time in its history, Merrimack earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament by winning a school-record 25 games last season. Head coach Mark Dennehy hopes the winning environment continues as the Warriors attempt for a repeat performance in 2011-12.

Record/finish in 2010-11
16-8-3 (35 points)
Fourth in Hockey East
Lost in Hockey East final (Boston College)
Lost in NCAA regional semifinal (Notre Dame)

Key 2010-11 stat
The Warriors were easily the most undisciplined team in the conference last season, racking up 633 penalty minutes, 127 more minutes than the next closest team. The time in the sin bin was costly as the team surrendered an average of nearly one goal per game while shorthanded.

Player to watch in 2011-12
Though he had plenty of interest from the Vancouver Canucks to join their AHL affiliate this year, goaltender Joe Cannata's decision to return for his senior year is a huge boost. Last season the Wakefield native posted a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage and was a major reason the Warriors had the most success in their Division 1 history.

Coach's quote
"You're not going to be able to take the wins from one year to another or the goals from one year to another, but what we've really worked hard to do is to build a culture, and if you do a good enough job and it really takes root, then it will transfer from one year to another."
–Mark Dennehy.

Outlook
Last season was one to remember for folks in North Andover as the Warriors won 25 games, reached the Hockey East Tournament championship game and made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1988. Duplicating this feat will be difficult given the caliber of competition in the league, but if Merrimack can take care of business at home, as it did last year (14-2-1 record at Lawler Arena), it should again be a top four finisher.

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