UMass Lowell claimed its second tournament title in one week, winning the Mariucci Classic in Minnesota on Saturday night, beating Merrimack College 3-1 in the championship game at Mariucci Arena.
The River Hawks won the Frozen Holiday Classic in Connecticut last weekend.
Merrimack took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal from Dan Kolomatis, but the River Hawks controlled puck possession, outshooting the Warriors 21-6. That trend continued throughout most of the game, with Lowell finishing with a 44-22 edge in shots.
Dylan Zink scored his first of two goals in the second period to tie the score, and then beat Rasmus Tirronen a second time with just 3:49 left in the third period.
Evan Campbell added insurance just over two minutes later.
“I didn’t think we were ready to play tonight, to be honest,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “Kudos to Lowell, right now they are the benchmark, and if that’s the case we didn’t measure up. As much as Ras played a good game last night, he saw most of the shots. Tonight, I don’t think we played nearly hard enough for a long enough period of time. You see what Lowell is able to do, and that’s what you aspire to.”
Added Lowell head coach Norm Bazin: “(Merrimack) doesn’t give you much, they are an excellent hockey team, they are very well coached and are very big especially down the middle. Our gameplan was to get pucks behind their defensemen and do as good of a job at possesing the puck.”
Merrimack has allowed 40 shots or more in each of the last three games. All three of those games were against some of the nation’s highest-ranked teams (in the Pairwise) and also all were played on larger ice surfaces.
“We don’t want to give shots up, we want to get in lanes,” Dennehy said. “I think they blocked more shots than we did. They had 20, I think we had 14. They obviously had a lot more attempts than we did. I think they also missed the net like 20 times. I don’t think there is a team in college hockey that isn’t trying to block shots. We did a real good job of it last night, a so-so job of it tonight. We weren’t ready to play as hard as we were going to need to play against a good team.”
For the first time this season, Dennehy seemed genuinely disappointed with the efforts of some of his players. A common theme in losses last season, most of Merrimack’s defeats this season have been more to do with execution, Dennehy said.
“Our effort has been good most nights,” he said earlier this week, “but we’re so young, and even though our upperclassmen have an idea of what we want to be, I don’t think we have an identity yet. We’re still looking for that.”
But after Saturday’s setback, Dennehy also said he’d like to see a more consistent effort.
“We can defend with anybody, but we need to be more ready to play,” he said. “I think Lowell is the benchmark. They are very thorough and they don’t give you anything. You have to work for everything, and we weren’t ready to work as hard, to a man. Some of our guys played their tails off this weekend, really played great hockey. And then we had some guys who were just up and down, and if you want to be an elite team, you can’t be up and down. Your highs can be high, but your lows can’t be that low.”
The Warriors will be off next weekend before kicking off a home-and-home series with Quinnipiac on Jan. 16 at Lawler Rink against Quinnipiac.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike is also a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN