NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy admits that the Warriors’ record isn’t what anyone likes. The Warriors have just two wins (2-9-3) through 14 games, and will host Army tonight before heading to New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon for a 4 p.m faceoff.
Ed. Note — Portions of this notebook appeared in Thursday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
“Anyone associated with the hockey program isn’t happy with where we are in terms of our record,” Dennehy said. “There are some games where we could have, and should have, pulled more points.”
Merrimack’s schedule has been among the toughest in the country. Nationally, the Warriors have played the 13th toughest schedule according to the KRACH ratings. In Hockey East, three of the Warriors’ four league opponents thus far occupy the first, second and third-place spots in the standings (Boston College, Northeastern and Providence). Merrimack’s league opponents have combined for a 25-12-1 record in Hockey East play.
“We do think that we’re tested,” Dennehy said. “The biggest thing for us right now is to maintain a positive mentality and continue to improve. The wins will come. I’ve been around long enough to know the wins will come, and I’m a long-term thinker. We can’t afford to get frustrated.”
Dennehy compared Merrimack’s season to a hockey game. At the 14-game mark, the Warriors are a little more than one third through the season.
Essentially, the Warriors are in the second period.
“We’re in the second period of our season and we’re guaranteed overtime,” Dennehy said, alluding to every team qualifying for the Hockey East playoffs. “Being mentally tough is something we pride ourselves on, and you don’t always succeed with it. It’s not about thinking that we won’t lose, being mentally tough means not thinking about it at all. The only time the score matters is at the end of the game, and the only time the record matters is at the end of the year.
“Really, what you play for in the regular season is to ensure an opportunity for home ice or a bye in the first round, but you also want a weaker opponent. That’s what we’re playing for and we can’t get distracted.”
Merrimack renews its series with Army tonight at Lawler Arena. Tonight’s game will mark the 40th time the teams have skated against each other dating back to 1959. Merrimack leads the all-time series 22-16-1 and the Warriors have never lost at home (12-0-0) when facing the Knights. This is Army’s first trip to Merrimack since 2013 and the Knights and Warriors last played in West Point in 2015 (a 3-2 Army win). Army travels to New Hampshire on Saturday night.
“We’re going to have to compete,” Dennehy said. “As an American citizen, I’m happy to know that Army will be one of the toughest teams we play all year long. They just beat a common opponent — Colgate — and they beat Colton Point, and I think highly of him as a goalie and what he’s been able to do for Colgate. Army is a good team.”
Scouting New Hampshire
After Friday’s game, the Warriors will have Saturday off before prepping to face New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center.
UNH took three of four points from the Warriors last season and then rallied to beat the Warriors in a playoff series at Lawler Arena last march. Merrimack and UNH have become a budding rivalry, with the teams meeting in the postseason in each of the last two seasons.
Merrimack is just 6-28-3 all-time at the Whittemore Center, which is one of the buildings in Hockey East to feature an Olympic-sized rink.
“To be honest, David (Breen) has broken them down on video, but we haven’t gone through it yet,” Dennehy said on Tuesday. “Not to get Bill Belichick on you, but we’re focused on Army and we’ll look at UNH on Saturday. That being said, we know it’s going to be a contrast. That’s not to say that UNH doesn’t compete, but you’re going to go from hand-to-hand warfare against Army on Friday night to having a lot more space and space to cover up at Lake Whittemore on their surface.”