setting the stage
Head coach Erin Hamlen and the Warriors headed into the sophomore season for the program in 2016-2017 looking to continue to make gainful strides from the successful inaugural season in 2015-16. Merrimack entered its second season of competition returning essentially the entire roster from last season, while they also added an impressive group of five rookies to the fray featuring two defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender.
The Warriors entered the season slotted ninth in the Hockey East Preseason Coaches' Poll, but were determined to battle for that eight-spot throughout the season to achieve the goal of clinching the program's first-ever playoff berth.
a homecoming to remember
Merrimack opened up the 2016-17 season on a six-game road trip, playing series at St. Cloud and Colgate before beginning Hockey East play with games at New Hampshire and Maine. The season-opening trip would be highlighted by Merrimack's first-ever win over St. Cloud, which featured the program's first hat trick from Katelyn Rae, and a 5-1 rout of Maine in their Hockey East opener.
The Warriors would play their first home games of the season on Homecoming Weekend, hosting Robert Morris for two games. Merrimack took the first game of the weekend in dramatic fashion, battling back to force overtime then getting the OT game-winner on the first-career goal for freshman Mikyla Grant-Mentis to nab their third win of the season and first win over the Colonials.
The Navy and Gold would follow that effort by skating to a 3-3 tie with Robert Morris the next night for an undefeated Homecoming Weekend. Merrimack would go on to carry that momentum into the following weekend as the Warriors would travel to Northeastern and beat the Huskies for the first time in program history, 3-2, to also register the first three-game unbeaten streak for the program.
finishing november strong
After a tough stretch of games to open the month of November, the Warriors set their sites on the Nutmeg Classic Championship hosted by Quinnipiac and also featuring Yale and UConn. The Warriors drew the hosts in the first game of the tournament, taking on the #8 Bobcats for the first time. After skating to a tie behind a 43-save effort from Samantha Ridgewell, the sophomore goaltender would make two more stops in shootout to lead Merrimack to the Nutmeg Classic Championship game.
Merrimack would take on Yale in the championship game the following day in Connecticut. Despite a scare from the Bulldogs late in the third period, the Warriors would hold on for a 4-3 victory behind two goals from Katelyn Rae to bring home the first tournament championship in program history.
Just three days after winning the Nutmeg Classic, the Warriors registered a 5-2 win over Brown to post their second three-game unbeaten streak as well as posting back-to-back wins for the first time in program history.
cruising into 2017
After their three-week winter hiatus, the Warriors picked action back up on January 3, hosting Vermont at Lawler Rink for the first time on the year. Merrimack would register an overtime victory over the Catamounts behind the game-winner and first goal of the season for Madison Morey, eventually going on to win two of three games to start the calendar year.
As January progressed, the Warriors would welcome #8 Qunnipiac to Lawler Rink for the first time ever, where Merrimack would again skate to a tie with the eighth-ranked team in the nation. Just a week later, the Warriors would register the first win over Boston University in program history, a 4-1 victory behind the first-career hat trick for Mikyla Grant-Mentis and just the second for the program.
honoring inaugural senior class
The Warriors celebrated the women's hockey program's first-ever senior class in 2016-17, with seniors Marie Delarbre and Samantha Saulnier holding the distinction of being the first graduating student-athletes for the program. The pair were honored on Senior Day following a 7-2 rout of Maine that featured a goal from Delarbre and continued to help the Warriors' late-season playoff push.
clinching the first postseason
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season with a two-game series at Vermont, the Warriors had a chance to clinch their first-ever postseason berth by registering at least a win and a tie in the two games. After suffering the program's first loss to Vermont in the first game of the weekend, Merrimack faced a must-tie situation in game two in order to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Behind a career-high 48-save effort from rookie goaltender Léa-Kristine Demers, the Warriors would register a clutch 3-2 victory over the Catamounts in their regular-season finale, moving into the eighth and final playoff spot in Hockey East. The win would not clinch the eight-seed, though, as the Warriors had to wait until the following day to see if they had done enough.
With Maine sitting just a point behind Merrimack in the ninth seed in the Hockey East standings, the Warriors' win over Vermont put the Black Bears in a must-win situation in their final game of the regular season at Boston University. With the Terriers cruising to a heavy victory over Maine, the Warriors officially clinched their first-ever Hockey East Playoff berth.
hockey east quarterfinals
As the eighth and final seed in the Hockey East Playoffs, the Warriors drew the top seed and sixth-ranked Boston College for the Quarterfinal round. Merrimack battled valiantly in both games in Chestnut Hill, but would be swept by the eventual Hockey East Champions in the Warriors' first Quarterfinal appearance.
Though they lose a pair of seniors to graduation for the first time, the Warriors' future looks extremely bright after a sophomore season the saw Merrimack leap beyond expectations with their improvements from the inaugural season. The team more than doubled its wins in one season, going from five in 2015-16 to 11 this season, and saw three Warriors net 25+ points after no player registered more than 19 in the inaugural season.
Merrimack saw its new freshman class contribute early and often in the program's second season, with goaltender Léa-Kristine Demers posting a great season in net while Mikyla Grant-Mentis led the Warriors in points on the year with 27 (9g, 18a). Rookie defensemen Chloe Cook and Andrea Olson each played in all 36 games for Merrimack in their freshman seasons.
On top of a deep freshman class returning with a year of experience under their belts, the Warriors' roster will feature 16 juniors in 2017-18 as the inaugural women's hockey roster transitions to upperclassmen, making for a squad with incredible experience and depth.