4 YRS AGO: Merrimack picked 10th by coaches and media, freshman previews, NHL camp updates


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Joe Clancy Signs With FXFL’s Boston Brawlers

Former Merrimack College quarterback Joe Clancy signed with the Boston Brawlers of the FXFL for this upcoming fall season.

The news was first reported by Shaun DePasquale, the director of scouting for the Beyond Sports Network.

The FXFL, which stands for the “Fall Experimental Football League,” was founded earlier this year by Brian Woods, a sports lawyer. The league is hoping to partner with the NFL and become a development league, similar to the D-League in the NBA.

“Our long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL and we feel can do that on many platforms,” Woods said. “It would give them a way to work with younger players that they don’t currently have. We can help them train prospective NFL officials – in the NBA, every referee entering the league (in recent years) comes from NBA Developmental League. We can be a testing ground for proposed rules, too.”

The league kicks off next month.

Clancy just finished a stint with the Orebro Black Knights in Sweden.

The Brawlers will play their home games at Harvard Stadium, mostly on Friday nights.

The league is launching with four teams including the Brawlers, the Brooklyn Bolts (MCU Park), Florida Blacktips (FIU Stadium) and the Omaha Mammoths (TD Ameritrade Park).

Future teams for the 2015-16 season are planned in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas.


Rob Morton Signs With Mississippi Riverkings

Former Merrimack College forward Rob Morton has signed with the Mississippi Riverkings of the SPHL. Morton was with the Warriors for two seasons before transferring to Utica in 2011, scoring 44 points in 69 games.

“Rob comes highly recommended by his college coach in Utica who said he can play in all situations and is a game changer,” Mississippi head coach Derek Landmesser said.

Morton, 26, finished his collegiate career at Utica College in the spring, posting 11 points (3g, 8a) in 22 games.

“I’m eager to begin my professional career and to have the opportunity to join the RiverKings,” Morton said. “The RiverKings were one of the top teams in the SPHL last season and I am looking forward to coming into camp trying to contribute this season.”


Brendan Ellis Signs With Sharks, Will Attend SJ Camp

Former Merrimack College defenseman Brendan Ellis has signed with the Worcester Sharks for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Ellis is also in California this week, taking part in the San Jose Sharks rookie camp and tournament against the Anaheim Ducks, along with fellow former Warrior Kyle Bigos.

Both Bigos and Ellis have been invited to take part in the San Jose Sharks’ NHL training camp, which gets underway later this week.

Bigos and Ellis will join NHL-contracted players Joe Cannata and Karl Stollery as former Merrimack players in NHL camps.

Ellis totaled 10 points, all assists, in 10 games last season with the Warriors.


Former Warriors Set For NHL Training Camps

Former Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata and defenseman Karl Stollery are both entering NHL training camps this weekend.

Cannata is entering his third pro season as part of the Vancouver Canucks organization, where last season he appeared in 28 games for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. There is a logjam in Vancouver’s crease after the Canucks signed veteran Ryan Miller this past offseason. Eddie Lack and Jakob Markstrom are the two likely candidates to land Miller’s backup role in Vancouver.

While a trade is possible, whoever doesn’t remain on Vancouver’s roster could get assigned to Utica – Markstrom and Lack would both need to clear waivers first, which might prove difficult.

The likely scenario is that either Lack or Markstrom is traded before the season begins, and Cannata returns to Utica for the 2014-15 season along with Joacim Eriksson, who he split time with last season.

Stollery is headed to camp with the Colorado Avalanche, after appearing in two NHL games last season and spending the bulk of his season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Lake Erie.

There are 24 defensemen headed to camp with Colorado and seven players – Tyson Barrie, Nate Guenin, Jan Hejda, Nick Holden, Erik Johnson, Brad Stuart and Ryan Wilson – have likely locked up spots on the roster. That could leave one spot open for competition, if the Avalanche decide to carry eight defensemen.

Former Merrimack defensemen Brendan Ellis and Kyle Bigos were both in camp with the San Jose Sharks earlier this week, and were assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Worcester on Thursday.


UNH Will Accelerate Danny Tirone

New Hampshire will accelerate goaltender Danny Tirone, who will now enroll in the university and join the hockey program for the second semester of the 2014-15 season.

Tirone was scheduled to play for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL) this upcoming season, but according to one USHL source, he will be traded to the Jr. Bruins (USPHL), where he will play until December.

The move was made in part due to uncertainty in UNH’s crease after senior goaltender Casey DeSmith was arrested earlier this month and charged with assault.

Tirone posted a .917 save percentage in 44 games in Cedar Rapids last season.


Heywood Invited to Worcester Training Camp

Former Merrimack College defenseman and captain, Jordan Heywood, has been invited to training camp with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks.

Heywood, who is under contract with the Reading Royals (ECHL), will join former teammates Brendan Ellis and Kyle Bigos, who are both under contract with the Sharks.

After finishing Merrimack career last spring, Heywood appeared in five games for the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL), recording three assists in five games.


Providence Picked by HEWBA To Win 2014-15 Title

Providence was named by the Hockey East media to claim the league’s regular season title for 2014-15 in the fifth annual poll of the Hockey East Writers & Broadcasters Association.

The Friars, who recorded a third-place finish in last season’s standings, received 26 of a possible 36 first-place votes. Last year’s regular season champion, Boston College, finished second in the balloting and was selected for first on eight of 36 ballots.

Boston University came in third, receiving the other two first-place votes. Northeastern was a close fourth, with Massachusetts-Lowell, looking for its third consecutive Hockey East tournament title this season, ranking fifth and Maine sixth.

Notre Dame and Vermont tied for seventh. New Hampshire was ninth, with Merrimack, Massachusetts and new Hockey East member Connecticut rounding out the poll.

Teams received 12 points for a first-place vote, 11 for second, 10 for third, and so on down to one point for a 12th place vote.

The media also once again selected a preseason All-Hockey East Team. Ross Mauermann (Sr., Providence) was the only senior named to the team. The other forwards chosen were Kevin Roy (Jr., Northeastern) and Devin Shore (Jr., Maine).

Ben Hutton (Jr., Maine) and Michael Matheson (Jr., Boston College) man the blueline for the media’s preseason team, while Jon Gillies (Jr., Providence) was named in goal.

Five juniors were chosen, in addition to the one senior. Maine and Providence each had two players named.

Ballots were received from print and broadcast media covering the 12 league schools as well as regional and national media. The yearly Coaches Poll will be released on Monday as part of Hockey East Media Day at TD Garden in Boston.

Complete poll results:

1. Providence (26) 414
2. Boston College (8) 399
3. Boston University (2) 309
4. Northeastern 305
5. Massachusetts-Lowell 267
6. Maine 256
7. (tie) Notre Dame 231
7. (tie) Vermont 231
9. New Hampshire 171
10. Merrimack 97
11. Massachusetts 80
12. Connecticut 48

F Ross Mauermann (Sr., Providence)
F Kevin Roy (Jr., Northeastern)
F Devin Shore (Jr., Maine)
D Ben Hutton (Jr., Maine)
D Michael Matheson (Jr., Boston College)
G Jon Gillies (Jr., Providence)


Stollery Makes First Cut at Avalanche Camp

Former Merrimack College defenseman Karl Stollery (pictured right) has made it through the first round of cuts at the Colorado Avalanche training camp.

Stollery is under a one-year contract with the Avalanche, his second season with the team. He’ll make $605,000 if he makes the NHL roster, and $100,000 if moved to the team’s AHL affiliate in Lake Erie.

The Avalanche cut seven defensemen from camp on Sunday, bringing the total number down to 17. The Avalanche will likely keep eight defensemen on the roster, and seven of those spots seem all but locked up.

Stollery made his NHL debut last season, appearing in two games for the Avalanche in January as well as being a part of the team’s “Black Aces” squad during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Hockey East Coaches Pick Providence in 2014-15 Poll

BOSTON – The annual Hockey East Coaches Poll was released as part of the league’s Media Day at TD Garden in Boston on Monday. Providence College, which was also the choice of the HEWBA Poll released on Sunday, was picked to win the league.

Merrimack College was chosen 10th by the coaches, picked ahead of UConn and UMass.

The full poll is below, along with the differences between the league’s coaches and members of the media:

2014-15 Hockey East Coaches Poll

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Rank, Team, HEWBA Poll
1, Providence, 1
2, Boston College, 2
3, Notre Dame, T-7th
4, Northeastern, 4
5, New Hampshire, 9
6, Boston University, 4
7, UMass Lowell, 5
8, Vermont, T-7th
9, Maine, 6
10, Merrimack, 10
11, Massachusetts, 11
12, Connecticut, 12


Recruits: Merrimack Beats Out HEA Rivals For Delia

Merrimack freshman goalie Collin Delia had a crowd of programs interested, but Dennehy’s glad he chose the Warriors

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack freshman goaltender Collin Delia had no shortage of Division I options. Merrimack, it seems, was on his trail first, but the likes of Denver and fellow Hockey East schools UMass Lowell and Providence College weren’t far behind in recruiting the California native.

After the season he put together in Amarillo (NAHL) last season, it’s easy to see why.

Delia posted a .937 save percentage during the regular season along with a 1.60 goals-against average; the Bulls won 22 of the 31 games he started. He added a .931 save percentage in the playoffs and in two NAHL seasons, posted 10 shutouts and a 33-9-2 record.

“He’s very quick and he’s very athletic,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “He’s really good down low and he’s a cerebral goaltender. He was an anchor for that Amarillo team and we think he’s going to be a really good goalie.”

Right before Delia made his commitment is when other programs started to turn up the heat. The Warriors were one of the first – if not the the first – team to make contact with Delia, and after making an offer, he accepted not long after.

“We were in the mix with some pretty good teams,” Dennehy said. “It’s funny, we were in the mix with two teams in our league who were recruiting him too, and we cross paths with those two teams a lot. I think they were so distracted by each other that they didn’t realize we were in the mix, or that we were as serious as we were about him. We like him a lot.

“He’s a smart kid, and I mean a really smart kid. He might be intellectually up there on par with Hampus (Gustafsson) and (former Merrimack goalie) Andrew Braithwaite.”

Delia is a civil engineering major at Merrimack, which is one of the most academically-challenging programs the college offers.

The NAHL has produced several top-collegiate goaltenders in recent years, the most notable being UMass Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck, who left the program this past offseason to sign with the Winnipeg Jets.

“Goaltenders tend to get better as they get older,” Dennehy said. “The USHL has their first pick a lot of times, so the USHL might get the younger guys and groom them where the guys that end up in the NAHL might not be the best in their age group at 15 or 16, but they come into their own at 17 or 18 and then all of a sudden they are some of the best in their age group. Then, just the way it works out, the USHL has their guys already.

“We’ve had a lot of success recruiting that league (the NAHL). There’s also more teams, which I think means it’s just math. There are more goalies playing in that league if there are more teams, so that’s part of it. But we’ve recruited some good players there.”


Stollery Makes Preseason Avs Debut

Former Merrimack College defenseman Karl Stollery made his preseason debut for the Colorado Avalance on Monday night in Anaheim in a 4-0 loss to the Ducks.

Stollery played 17:56 over 18 shifts, totaling two hits and one shot on goal.

The Ducks and Avalanche played a split-squad series on Monday, with the Ducks beating the Avalanche 5-2 in Colorado, and then 4-0 in Anaheim, where Stollery played.

There are 17 defensemen left in Colorado’s camp and 12 of them dressed last night between the two games, including Stollery.

As we wrote previously, there are likely eight spots available on Colorado’s roster for defensemen, and at least six – maybe seven – of those spots already seem locked up. Stollery will likely start the season in the AHL with Lake Erie, but this camp is important as he tried to position himself as one of the first call-ups when an injury hits the main roster.


Recruits: Spaxman on NHL Central Scouting Prelim List

Merrimack College recruit Ethan Spaxman was listed as a “C” player on the NHL Central Scouting “Players to Watch” List.

Spaxman is about to begin his first USHL season with the Bloomington Thunder. The 6-foot-3 defenseman is slated to start his Merrimack career in 2015.

Last season, in 64 games with The Hill Academy, Spaxman totaled 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 64 games.


Shawn Bates Signs with Colorado Eagles

Former Merrimack College forward Shawn Bates has signed with the Colorado Eagles of the East Coast Hockey League and will participate in the team’s training camp starting next month.

Bates graduated from Merrimack this past spring, scoring 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 104 career games.

He signed with the Innisfail Eagles in the ChinookHL towards the end of last season, scoring a pair of goals in four regular-season games and adding eight points (6 goals, 2 assists) in seven playoff games.


Recruits: Seney Accelerated After Stellar Season

Brett Seney was slated to arrive at Merrimack in 2015, but a stellar junior season moved that date up one year.

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – When Brett Seney makes his debut as a Merrimack Warrior next month, he’ll become the program’s first natural-freshman skater since 2003, and the first non-goaltender to come to Merrimack as a natural freshman since Mark Dennehy took over the hockey program.

Seney graduated from high school last spring, all the while, he was putting on a performance to remember almost nightly in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. The last time Merrimack brought in an 18-year-old high school graduate, as a non-goaltender, was when Mike Alexiou, Jeff Caron and Ryan Sullivan all joined the team for the 2003-04 season. Goaltender Joe Cannata did the same in 2008.

“We thought he might need to get a little stronger, but he’s ready,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “We had faith in (strength coach) Mike Kamal to get him strong enough to play at this level a year earlier than we thought, and then he came in over the summer and he surprised me; he’s plenty strong enough.

“Can he get stronger? Sure. And he’s going to have to if he wants to play significant hockey after Merrimack, but he’s plenty strong enough to play college hockey and be effective.”

Seney comes to Merrimack with the most offensive pedigree of any recruit this season, scoring a total of 81 points (31 goals, 50 assists) in just 60 games last year between the regular season and playoffs for the Kingston Voyageurs.

Prior to committing to Merrimack, he was also being recruited by Providence, Notre Dame, UMass, Colgate and Clarkson.

“I’m not the lead guy on many of our recruits,” Dennehy said, “so there aren’t many guys I see first. Curtis (Carr) watched him play and really liked him, and as we often do, we double-backed with (Glenn Stewart), and Stewy liked him a lot as well. We met with the family, and to be honest, we had made an offer and committed him before I even saw him play live. I had only watched him on video a little bit.

“Then last year, I went to see him play. It wasn’t to evaluate him, but more just to go watch him. It was exciting because he was having such a good year.”

Seney is small in stature – he’s listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds – but history says that shouldn’t be a problem in the college game.

“He’s a prototypical college forward,” Dennehy said. “He’s not very tall, but he has awesome quickness and he’s someone who plays the game the right way. What I mean by that is he had almost 100 points last year, but he’s also winning faceoffs and he’s blocking shots and he’s doing all of those little things on top of scoring. He has some meanness in him – he took some penalties last year in order to protect himself – and he plays with an edge. We really felt with the progression he made last year he was ready to come in this season and make an impact, and we’re glad he’s here.”

Where Seney will start his college career remains to be seen. He played both center and wing in junior hockey, where despite being just 5-9, he was also the net-front man on his Voyageurs’ power-play unit last season.

“Down the road I think he’ll be a center man,” Dennehy said. “To start though, it’s a matter of finding these guys ice time off the bat, so we’ll see.”


Cannata Makes Preseason Canucks Debut

Former Merrimack College goaltender Joe Cannata made his preseason debut with the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, allowing two goals on 18 shots in just over 27 minutes; Cannata recorded the win, as the Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-2.

Cannata played these second half of the game after Eddie Lack started. Lack was with the NHL team last season, primarily serving as a backup to Roberto Luongo but did also start after the Canucks traded Luongo to the Florida Panthers.

As we’ve previously written, Cannata is part of a logjam in Vancouver’s crease. Cannata, Lack, Ryan Miller, Jacob Markstrom and Joacim Eriksson are five players battling for four spots between the NHL and AHL.


Merrimack Captains Focus on Building a Team in Preseason

BOSTON – Merrimack College enters the 2014-15 season hitting the proverbial reset button. After a last-place finish this past spring, the Warriors turned over a large portion of its roster over the summer, including adding 10 new freshmen to the mix.

Captaining the team are seniors Dan Kolomatis, who will wear the “C” and Justin Mansfield, who will have the “A” on his chest.

Merrimack’s freshman reported to campus in July, working out with strength coach Mike Kamal and getting a head start on their college classes. Kolomatis and Mansfield joined them, skating informally over the summer as a group.

Once everyone reported in September, the captains focused on team-building exercises as the Warriors integrate their new teammates into the fabric of the program.

“We thought it would be a great idea to do some things off the ice to get to know the freshmen and their personalities,” Kolomatis told Mike Machnik in a podcast recorded at Hockey East Media Day this past Monday.

He continued, “We did our first ever softball game at the school, we rented the softball field, and that was nice. Then a couple of weekends ago we the first ever golf outing, which was a beautiful day up until the back nine when it started down pouring. We split the whole team up into foursomes and sent them out behind each other. The winner was Hampus (Gustafsson); he’s probably the best golfer on the team.”

Also, “Team Kolo” beat “Team Manny” on the softball diamond.

Merrimack also took part in Judgement Day once again, going through the paces this past weekend. Much like that program has become a tradition for the program, Kolomatis and Mansfield hope that their preseason rituals could become yearly staples as well.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “You definitely want to make this program a better place when you leave here. You want the real success to come on the ice, but if it’s something as small as a golf outing or a softball game to hopefully catch with the leaders that get put in place next year, it’s something you can look back on and be glad you made a difference.

“It’s just a whole new look. Last year we didn’t have the success we wanted. Just ramping up with the preseason, with the workouts, and Mansfield and myself just letting the new guys know how we do things around here, how it’s a process, and also being a reminder for the returners that last year wasn’t a successful year, so we need to come to work this year and raise the standard.”


Recruits: Hennig Overcomes Injury in his Path to Merrimack

Jace Hennig overcame a cracked L-5 vertebra prior to his midget hockey career to become a hot college commodity.

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – Prior to the start of his midget career in 2011, Merrimack College freshman Jace Hennig sat on the opposite side of the boards for two seasons, rehabbing a cracked L-5 vertebra.

Until that season, he wasn’t sure where his hockey career was headed. His father, Jeff, had been spending the past two years helping find a doctor to correctly diagnose his son and his older brother, Cole, was helping research college programs, as detailed in this 2012 story from The Province.

But that midget season was a successful one, and Hennig didn’t merely dip his toes back into the water. He jumped in head first. In just 25 games with the Vancouver NE Chiefs that season, he totaled 52 points, including 24 goals, nearly averaging one goal per game.

From there it was on to the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express – he was signed at mid-season – where at the time he was one of the youngest players in the league. It all led to a scholarship offer from Merrimack, which Hennig accepted after also being recruited by St. Cloud State and Penn State.

“He’s a little undersized, like (Brett) Seney, but makes up for it with good quickness and he’s a heady hockey player,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “He came on at the end of last year and was the player we thought he was going to be coming out of midgets when we recruited him. He’s around the puck a lot, and he can play a number of different roles.

“He’s a two-way player, but when he was a midget and definitely towards the end of last year, his team needed to rely on him to put the puck in the net, and he was doing it consistently.”

Hennig totaled 35 points in 55 games last season for the Express, and was eligible to return for one more seasons of junior hockey, but Dennehy and the Merrimack staff feel he’s ready for the jump to college hockey.

“He’s going to help us,” Dennehy said. “He can do a everything we’re going to ask him to do, and he can play in a number of roles.”

Hennig never required surgery to repair the L-5 vertebra, rehabbing the injury through physical therapy and training, and has since added almost 20 pounds to his frame.

Last season, he played an integral role for an Express team that won the BCHL Championship.


Olympian Kacey Bellamy Hired as Merrimack Women’s Hockey Assistant

Kacey Bellamy, a two-time Winter Olympics silver medalist for the United States Women’s Ice Hockey National Team, has been hired as assistant women’s ice hockey coach at Merrimack College.

Bellamy joins the coaching staff of head coach Erin Hamlen and assistant coach Brent Hill, as the trio continues to build toward the program’s debut season at the Division I ranks in 2015-16.

“My coaching philosophy has been to recruit great players and great people who work to build a successful program, and our assistant coaches embody this philosophy,” Hamlen said. “I am thrilled to bring someone into our Merrimack Women’s Ice Hockey family who brings a wealth of hockey experience, an unending work-ethic, and a desire to push athletes to be their best.

“I coached Kacey in college, with Team USA, and with the Boston Blades. She has grown to be a leader at every level and, as a two-time Olympian, continues to grow as a player. As a coach, she will bring her elite experience to a young program.”

Bellamy arrives in North Andover after spending most of last year preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, competing as a member of the United States Women’s National Team and helping the U.S. capture a silver medal. She also was a member of the team in Vancouver back in the 2010 Winter Olympics, where the United States also took home a silver medal.

“I am honored and thrilled to become part of Merrimack College and the first-ever women’s ice hockey team,” Bellamy stated. “Erin and Brent have done an incredible job and I can’t wait to join their process in forming a successful program.”

A 2009 UNH graduate, Bellamy was a five-time member of the U.S. Women’s National Team for the IIHF World Women’s Championship, helping the team claim gold on four occasions. She was an assistant captain for Team USA in 2012 and 2013, and named one of the team’s Top-Three Players in 2009.

Bellamy was an eight-time member of the U.S. Women’s Select Team for the Four Nations Cup and twice skated for the Under-22 Select Team that competed against Canada in 2007-08.

At UNH, Bellamy ranks third all-time in career points by a defenseman, earning RBK All-America First Team and Hockey East First Team honors as a senior and was named UNH’s Jim Urquahart Student-Athlete of the Year.


Brendan Collier Cleared to Play at Northeastern

Former Boston University forward Brendan Collier has been cleared to play immediately. Collier posted a picture of his clearance letter on Twitter.

Collier was cut from BU’s roster in the spring. Not long after, he was scooped up by the Huskies.

Collier was a standout at Malden Catholic before committing to the Terriers. In 28 games last season, he recorded four points (1 goal, 3 assists) and was a seventh-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012.

During the 2012-13 season, Collier totaled 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 43 games for the Valley Jr. Warriors in the EJHL.


Biega Carving His Own Career at Merrimack

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack College freshman defenseman Marc Biega could have followed in the footsteps of his three brothers – Alex, Mike and Danny – who all came from Quebec and played down the road a ways at Harvard University. But Biega was looking to blaze his own trail.

“All three of his brothers were very good players,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “He comes from a great hockey family, and I think he was just looking for something different, something that was a little more his own. He’s a great student and he wanted to come to college this year, and not wait, so it really worked out.”

Biega’s offensive instincts are what will be most noticeable at first glance. He scored 38 points in 55 games last season for the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League, including 17 goals as a defenseman.

In a 2010 interview with ESPN Boston, Mike Biega said his youngest brother might be the best of the four

“Skillwise, I’d probably say my younger brother (is the best player),” he said. “He plays very similar to me, has very good hands, and he’s doing really well right now. He probably has a harder shot than all of us.”

At the conclusion of last season, Biega was named a BCHL First-Team All Star and he also led the BCHL in goals by a defenseman. Prior to joining the BCHL, Biega played one season at Salisbury.

“Marc has really great offensive instincts for a defenseman,” Dennehy said. “Look at his numbers, that’s easy to see. He has really good offensive instincts. He’s a good puck mover and he is a good, mobile defenseman. He can jump up into the offense but is also good in his own end and he has a nice first pass and a good stick.

“His skating is good, it can get better, but it’s good. Like all guys he has some things to work on, but we’ve liked what we have seen so far.”

Prior to committing to Merrimack, Biega was being recruited by both Bowling Green and Minnesota.


Recruits: Titcomb a Perfect Fit for Merrimack’s Style

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – In many ways, Merrimack freshman Aaron Titcomb embodies what Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy wants his program to be.

“He’s a hard-working, blue-collar defenseman,” Dennehy said. “He’s a Charlestown kid, he’s a local kid, and he works hard at everything he does.”

Titcomb enters his freshman season after spending last season with the Middlesex Islanders in the USPHL. Prior to joining the Islanders, Titcomb played for Salisbury Prep and Brewster Academy.

“He’s really raw, but he’s a really good athlete,” Dennehy said. “He’s a good skater and he really came into his own last season with (Islanders head coach) Sean (Tremblay). He came into junior hockey out of Salisbury and I think he was really still developing as a player.

“Aaron is a guy who I see being on a really good trajectory here.”

In 48 games for the Islanders last season, Titcomb recorded 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists), while adding three points in five playoff games. During the 2012-13 seson, he recorded 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) for Salisbury and was a CCL All-Star as a sophomore at Brewster academy in 2011, where he totaled 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 24 games.

Skated for Islanders Hockey Club (USPHL) in 2013-14, recording 22 points in 48 games (3g, 19a) … Logged three points in five playoff contests … Spent 2012-13 at Salisbury Prep, finishing with 10 points (2g, 8a) … CCL All-Star as a sophomore at Brewster Academy, where he posted 29 points (11g, 18a) in 24 games.

According to Dennehy, Titcomb has the potential to star in two sports.

“He throws about 90 miles per hour,” he said. “I told (former Merrimack baseball coach) Jim Martin that he might be able to cross over, I’m not sure if it will happen or not, but it’s possible. He’s really a good athlete.”

For now, though, Dennehy sees him as a player who should content for ice time as a freshman.

“He has good size,” he said. “Like most of these guys, he could get stronger. He’s already pretty strong, but everyone can get stronger. He’s a good skater, especially for someone his size, so I think he can come in here and content for ice time.”

Titcomb was also the recipient of the first ever Avalanna Routh Memorial Award.

“It’s kind of nice that the one award we will have is about doing more for others than yourself,” Islanders head coach Sean Tremblay said. “And that’s what Avalanna did, she touched other people’s lives in a way that I’ve never seen. She has affected my life in a positive way and that’s what we want, we want this award to go to someone who makes other people better and inspires other people.

“The trophy will remain here in our facility, it will start forth a great tradition here with the Islanders family. (Titcomb) is a guy who got involved with everything we did at the beginning of the year. Throughout the entire year he’s been one of the guys who we haven’t had to nag to go out on the ice and help out, he’s always willing to do whatever it takes to help out with the youth groups. He’s been a good leader both verbally and more by what he does every single day.”


Recruits: Defensive-Minded Bilous Recruited Young

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – When Merrimack College recruited Braxton Bilous, it broke its mold.

When Bilous committed as a 16-year-old defenseman, he was one of the youngest commitments in Mark Dennehy’s tenure as head coach. The Warriors don’t make it a regular practice to recruit younger players, but they saw something in Bilous, who at the time was playing for the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL before finishing his junior career with the West Kelowna Warriors.

Last season, Bilous was traded to the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, as the Bandits were looking to add reinforcements for the playoffs.

“We recruited him young out of B.C. but we saw something there,” Dennehy said. “He’s a player who excels in a lot of different situations. He’s not a traditional defensive defensemen, but he’s very good in his own end.”

Dennehy said that there is often a negative stigma attached to the term “defensive defenseman,” but Bilous is a player that can fill a number of roles.

“He has a good first pass and has a really underrated shot,” Dennehy said. “He’s more of a stay-at-home defenseman for sure. We kid around with Coach Carr a lot, but there are times when we call defensive-defensemen guys who don’t like the puck. Braxton is a stay-at-home defenseman, but he’s OK with the puck on his stick. He makes a really good outlet pass.”

Between Brooks and West Kelowna, Bilous appeared in 55 games last season, totaling 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists), scoring 17 of those points in 32 games with the Bandits.


Recruits: Kolquist Brings Back Good Memories for Dennehy

Jared Kolquist will be able to contribute in all situations, Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy says.

In the weeks ahead, The Mack Report will preview Merrimack College’s 10 incoming freshmen. You can also click here read our other recruit previews for the upcoming 2014 season.

NORTH ANDOVER – Fraser Allan, a Merrimack defenseman from 2007-11, appeared in 119 games over his four-year college career. It was a career that almost never happened; he was recruited the August before his freshman year began.

While at Merrimack, he became a jack of all trades, playing top-four minutes while also playing the point on the power play and anchoring a penalty kill unit.

When Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy describes freshman defenseman Jared Kolquist, he compares him favorably to Allan.

“Both Fraser and Jared are just hockey players,” he said. “Jared, like Fraser, really blossomed their last year of junior hockey. But on the ice, Jared really reminds me of Fraser. He’s just a hockey player. He eats it, sleeps it.”

Kolquist is a Minnesota native, and spent the last two seasons playing in the USHL, where he totaled 53 points (9 goals, 44 assists) in 117 games between the Sioux City Musketeers and the Lincoln Stars.

While not physically imposing at 5-foot-1, around 185 pounds, Kolquist has been a solid contributor at ever level.

“He’s another defenseman that we think has a really good stick,” Dennehy said. “He makes good players. He’s rarely going to make a mistake. He might not wow you, and you might not notice him much, but I know I feel confident putting him in all sorts of scenarios and knowing he’s going to get the job done. He can contribute offensively as well.”

In an intra-squad scrimmage last week, Kolquist was playing the point on one of the power-play units.

“He’s going to be able to contribute in a lot of areas for us,” Dennehy said. “People might not notice him, and sometimes people didn’t notice (Allan) either, but that’s OK. That just meant he wasn’t making a mistake, and from what we’ve seen of Jared, he doesn’t make many mistakes.”


Gilligan Brings Great Mind, Potential For European Recruiting

NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy doesn’t mince words when he talks about his admiration for Bill Gilligan, who was hired as an associate head coach earlier this offseason to replace Glenn Stewart.

When Stewart left Merrimack to join UNH, his alma matter, Gilligan was Dennehy’s first call. First, he didn’t want to disrupt anyone else’s coaching staff that late into the offseason. But more importantly, he said, he believes tapping into Gilligan’s hockey mind could reap huge benefits for his program.

“He is the most underrated American hockey mind, in my opinion,” Dennehy said. “There’s a few reasons why I say that. First, I think his accomplishments might get overlooked because most of them, as a coach, were in Europe. He’s really intelligent. He also loves to teach. He understands the game on a conceptual level, but he’s able to take it to a practical level unlike anyone I’ve ever been around before. He has the ability to break down the game and bring it to an individual player and teach them what they need to do to get better in whatever system you have in place. He has a lot of patience, but he’s also very stern. He’s deliberate.

“I tend to speak first and think second a lot of times. There aren’t many things that have come out of Bill Gilligan’s mouth that haven’t been well thought out. When I worked with him (at UMass) it forced me to think before I spoke, because he’d call you out if he thought it was bull.”

Gilligan has joined a staff that already includes Curtis Carr, who was also promoted to associate head coach this summer. Carr has been involved heavily with Merrimack’s recruiting efforts since joining the staff, bringing strong connections to the USHL since he was a former head coach for the Youngstown Phantoms.

“I’m lucky to have two guys on our staff, Bill and Curtis, who challenge me,” Dennehy said. “Curtis is someone who has elevated his game. He’s not afraid to call me on the mat either if he believes in something. Both of these guys challenge me to be a better coach, and they will also challenge our team to be better.”

Gilligan’s connections overseas could help the Warriors in recruiting foreign players. In recent years, Merrimack has been able to land several European and Scandinavian players, including Stephane Da Costa, Hampus and John Gustafsson, as well as Rasmus Tirronen. Alfred Larsson, a freshman this coming season, is also from Sweden.

“There is potential there with his connections, that was part of hiring Bill for sure,” Dennehy said. “But mostly, it was his understanding and passion for the game. If we can get some European kids too, then great. Ironically, most of the guys we have recruited we saw once they came to play here, but we’re definitely making trips over there to recruit players and hopefully it will be productive for us.”

There’s been a larger influx of European players playing college hockey in the last decade. In part, players overseas are more educated on the process of playing college hockey.

“I think more guys know about it now,” Merrimack sophomore Hampus Gustafsson said last season. “A lot of guys just didn’t know about it. When I found out there was a way to play junior hockey in the United States and then maybe get a scholarship to get an education while playing hockey, it was exactly what I wanted to do. More guys see that opportunity now, and I think it’s because we didn’t know much about it before.

“I know in Sweden, we have also seen a lot of guys come over here and play college hockey and do really well.”

In 2012, the Warriors hosted Sweden’s U-20 team in an exhibition game at Lawler Arena. While here, the Swedish team moved into Merrimack’s dorms and lived the life of an American college student, minus the classes. The team would skate daily at Lawler Rink during their tour, and also ate their meals in the cafeteria.

“I got to talking with their coach when he was here,” Dennehy said, “and as it turns out, he said the college hockey model was a lot closer to their model in Sweden. Junior hockey isn’t how their model works. The way they train over there, it’s almost like a school. College Hockey, Inc. has gone a great job bringing guys over there up to speed not he rules and what is available and the fit has worked.”

Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike is also on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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