University of Maine, Merrimack College renew men’s hockey rivalry with two games at Alfond Arena

Posted Jan. 17, 2013, at 7 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Familiarity breeds contempt.

And there aren’t many teams in the Division I college hockey ranks that have played each other more over the past two years than the University of Maine and Merrimack College.

When the Warriors invade Alfond Arena for a two-game set this weekend, it will represent the 13th and 14th meetings between the two Hockey East rivals since Jan. 8, 2011.

Merrimack owns a 7-4-1 record in the previous 12 meetings, including last Saturday’s 6-0 win at Lawler Arena in North Andover, Mass.

It is the first time in recent memory Maine has played the same opponent three successive times during the regular season.

Maine, 5-13-3 overall and 1-8-3 in Hockey East, will try to begin climbing out of the cellar while gunning for its first win of the season at Alfond Arena.

The Black Bears have a school-record nine-game winless streak at Alfond this season (0-7-2).

Until last year, Maine hadn’t lost to Merrimack at home since 1997.

The teams split four games at Alfond Arena last season as Merrimack (8-9-4, 6-5-1 HE) won the regular-season meeting 2-1 before Maine sandwiched 2-1 victories around a 5-2 loss in their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.

The previous year, Merrimack swept Maine out of the Hockey East quarterfinals at Lawler Arena.

”They ended our season two years ago and we ended theirs last season and that definitely escalates the games between the two teams,” said Maine senior left wing Adam Shemansky, who said the playoff confrontations have heightened the rivalry.

Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mark Nemec concurred.

“I’d definitely say a little rivalry has developed, especially over the last two seasons,” said Nemec. “Our games with them always seem to be physical battles and it seems like each team has had success in their own rink. Whenever we go down there, they hand it to us pretty good and we’ve had some success against them at Alfond.

“Obviously, we need to rebound after last weekend,” added Nemec.

Merrimack’s seniors hold an 8-6-1 edge over Maine’s seniors, going 6-1-1 at home and 2-5 on the road.

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said, “both teams play very hard. There’s a mutual respect because of that and it takes on a little bit of a rivalry. Since we’ve met in the playoffs the last two years, that gets the juices flowing.”

He downplayed Maine’s home woes.

“They’re undefeated today. Every day is a new day,” said Dennehy. “It’s not an easy place to play. It’s a historic program. Hockey East points are on the line. We both need those points for different reasons.”

Merrimack is trying to carve out a home-ice berth with a top-four finish in the league while Maine is just hoping to get into the playoffs and avoid being one of two teams that doesn’t qualify for the quarterfinals.

There won’t be any secrets unveiled this weekend.

“We know their style and they know ours just from playing each other so much,” said Shemansky. “[Dennehy] seems to get a lot out of his players. They’re a good team and we’re going to have to be very prepared if we want to be successful.

“You always get up for games against good teams and rivals and they’re both,” added Shemansky. “Everyone loves to play in those types of games. They’re fun.”

“It’ll come down to which team works the hardest and sticks to the game plan,” said Nemec. “Last week, they blocked a lot of shots (26) and did a great job protecting their net front. Those are some areas we can improve upon in moving forward. We’ve got to protect our net [better] and bail out our goalies.”

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