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Flashback (4 yrs.): Merrimack opens season at Holy Cross, travels to New Jersey

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Exclusively for our VIP supporters, The Mack Report will bring you bi-weekly Flashback posts, where we take a trip in Doc Brown’s time machine and see what we were covering here at TMR four, eight and 12 years ago.

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Dennehy Q&A: Talking UConn, Holy Cross and Hockey East

Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy held his weekly media availability on Thursday after the Warriors practiced at Lawler Arena. Below is a transcript of the session:

Note: Only standing-room tickets remain for Saturday’s Merrimack-UConn game, per the Merrimack athletic department. The game will also be televised on WBIN locally and streamed on ESPN3 worldwide.

Now that you’ve had time to look back on last weekend, what were some of your takeaways after you had the time to go over video and just digest the weekend a little more?

“I thought we were much better the second night, overall. I think we did a lot of good things and the things we struggled with are probably just a fixture if it being early in the season. But for basically playing nine out of 10 freshmen, and being as young as we were, I thought we earned two hard-fought victories. Those will look good in March.”

Those two games both had the feeling of Hockey East games, in terms of how they were played, I thought. Sometimes with these non-conference games it might get a little more wide open or up-and-down maybe because there’s some unfamiliarity, but in terms of how physical and tight-checking those games, it felt a lot like the way Providence or other Hockey East teams would play. Would you agree?

“I think that’s insightful. Obviously David (Berard) is from Providence but also I think watching how Lowell plays, they were just looking to get the puck out of their zone and get it behind us and then come after it.

“The best thing that happened to us on Friday was getting up two goals, but I also thought that the worst thing that happened to us on Friday night was getting up by two goals. It was good to get up by two goals because we needed it, it was a close game, but we scored that second goal and I think we started to dance around a bit and think it might be a 5-1 game. Meanwhile, four minutes prior to that second goal, that window was more about them than us, and that rolled into the second period.

“I think Hockey East will still be a notch above that in terms of intensity, but that was pretty close.”

You had a freshman line on both nights, what did you see from them?

“They were better I think the first night than they were the second night. We liked what they were doing early on so we put them together. I think they spend more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone, which is a positive.

“The lines are far from being finalized. There are still some other combinations we want to see. It doesn’t mean we won’t come back to that, but so far, so good. A lot of times this weekend we had five freshmen on the ice because they were paired up with two D.”

Can you talk a little bit about Hampus? Last year he started at center and I think you moved him to the wing in order to help him get involved in the offense a little more but taking away some of the responsibilities of being the center. I think he was back at center before the end of last year and he was over the weekend, and I thought he played really well both nights in all zones, especially in the offensive zone, he was involved.

“Good players tend to find the puck no matter where you put them, and Hampus is a good player. We do think he tends to get more puck touches when he’s in the middle, though. It gets him going a little bit. He has a big body and he gets himself moving a little more.

“That’s the thing with those bigger players. I’m not saying he’s Milan Lucic, but whether it’s Lucic or Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry, it’s about getting them going and getting their feet moving and he tends to do that more at center.

“I thought he was better on Saturday than on Friday, and I thought they were good on Friday too. They’re three big guys and when they get cooking in the offensive zone and they get cycling, especially when we had Gould out there with him, they’re tough to get off the puck.”

Can you talk a little about what you saw from Ras? Just what you noticed about the team defense in general?

“I thought Ras played well. We look at more than just goals against, I think of the three he’d like the second one back on Friday, I think he overplayed it a little bit, but he was solid. Both goalies were good, so Ras had to be. We used to kid around with Joe Cannata that you only need to make the game-winner, that’s the only save you need to make. I thought our defense was much better in front of him on Saturday and we really locked it down once we got the lead. If you look at the last 30 minutes or so of that game, I don’t think they had many opportunities.”

What did you see with UConn in looking at them? I know they got it taken to them a little bit on Saturday but they probably should have won that game on Friday, they lost a lead late.

“They did lose a late lead. And, you watch that Saturday game, I don’t know if they got it taken to them but it got away from them. It wasn’t like Penn State was dominating. There was some penalties, Penn State got some goals and then they had it cooking a little bit.

“I thought their forwards had a lot of skill. I think that Coach Cavanaugh had a lot to do with the play that Boston College played, so I see some similar tendencies in terms of letting the offensive players play. Their defensemen look to move the puck and join the rush from behind, but their forwards are creative. Richardson is good, Norris is good, and their seniors are strong. Their quickness looked good and their goalie made some really big saves. This is a Hockey East team, and they have as many freshmen as we do. I don’t know that they played all 10 at once, but they’re young like us. I think this is a really hard-fought game. As usual, it comes down to a save here, a power play, a kill, I expect them to come in here and bring it.”

Do you think your offense looked a little better this weekend, coming off the five goals?

“I try not to look at results as much as I look at the process. I thought their goalie made a lot of good saves. That save on Benny Bahe is a goal on most nights. Huss missed a backdoor on Friday. We had two posts on Saturday. So we scored five, and that’s good, but we could have scored a lot more. I liked the opportunities we got. I’m OK winning by one goal.”

The last thing I have, and it’s a bit off topic, but Joe Bertagna last week mentioned that while the league is at 12 teams now, that might not be the end of it. He thought 12 was the magic number but why not still expand. Do you have thoughts on that? Do you feel like the league is as a good number now with 12?

“I don’t know why an odd number is a bad thing. But I also think we need to be careful getting too big. You need to have some familiarity. I know that when Bettman took over the NHL, he had three goals: Increase scoring, increase the rivalries, and reduce fighting. Only one of those really increases attendance, and that’s the rivalries. So by adding teams, I think you dilute some of those rivalries.

“Do we want to go back to playing teams three times? I think most in our league would say no. But, I think if you add too many teams, it dilutes those connections that the schools have. I like where we are now, I think we’re positioned well nationally, but I do think there are always things we could do to better ourselves. I don’t think adding teams is necessarily one of them. But, most importantly, that’s not my decision.”

Lastly, from a competitive standpoint, do you find it better to have the format as it is now? Meaning you’re playing teams for the most part one at home, one on the road, as opposed to two at home and one on the road and then flipping that the next season?

“At the end of the day, it’s never going to be level. The teams change. Not where they come from, but we’re young this year. You can’t predict that. So we’re probably going to be a different team come Christmas. You can’t predict injuries. I think that right now it’s as close to being perfect as we can have it. You play each team home and away with the exception of two, and it seems to work OK.”

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Ludvig Larsson Talks About Merrimack Commitment

In a story on the NAHL’s website, Ludvig Larsson talked about his recent commitment to Merrimack College. Larsson, the younger brother of Merrimack freshman Alfred Larsson, is in his first season with the Lone Star Brahma of the NAHL, and he is scheduled to arrive at Merrimack next fall.

“It was my goal this season (to commit to a Division I school) and I feel so relieved. Merrimack seems like a very good school and the coaches seem very loyal. And my brother plays at Merrimack so that will be fun to play with him,” Larsson said.

“I’ve actually never played with (my brother). We played for the same team, but not in the same age,” Larsson said. “I talked to my brother last night and he was really excited. I’ll play with him three years. Just to hang out with him for three years more in college will be so much fun.”

“I visited Merrimack before I came to Texas and I visited Boston, too. I really like the city. It’s almost like a European city. There’s more personality in the city. There’s a lot of concrete here in Dallas, but there are a lot of parks and trees and old houses (in Boston). And that’s pretty similar to European towns.”

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Hennig’s Long Road to Merrimack

NORTH ANDOVER – Jace Hennig’s first collegiate goal last Saturday gave Merrimack College a one-goal lead in a game the Warriors went on to win, 2-1, over Holy Cross. Hennig now has the puck and the Merrimack hockey operations staff had it marked to commemorate the occasion. Just as was the case with his linemate, Brett Seney, on Friday, it’s a piece of memorabilia that probably sits somewhere in the players’ locker, or perhaps goes back home to mom and dad as a “thank you” for all the early-morning drives to games as a youth player.

For Hennig, who missed two years of hockey after a serious spinal injury as a bantam, it might mean just a tad more.

“It was a point shot, I think from Lash,” Hennig said of his first goal. “There was a couple of guys in front and the puck was just sitting behind us. Me and the guy I was tied up with, I don’t think either of us really knew where it was, so I just tried to push him off of me and get a stick on it and it went it. Obviously it was a special feeling.”

(Ed. Note — this story will appear in a future edition of The Eagle Tribune)

Hennig was tied up with a defender but fought through him, and another Holy Cross player, who was coming from the right side to score the goal. Given his story, it should come as no surprise that he’s battle tested.

When he was a bantam player back home in Port Moody, B.C., Hennig broke his L-5 vertebrae in two places after taking a hit from behind. The L-5 vertebrae is the largest of the 23 in a person’s spine, and is responsible for bearing most of a person’s body weight.

“I got hit from behind on the boards and I was on my hands and knees trying to get up and grab my stick,” Hennig said. “Then a player from the other team came in and jumped on my back and it sort of cratered by back. I was basically in shock. I remember freezing. My body was in so much pain that I just seized up and froze.”

Hennig didn’t see the ice again for two years.

“When you know Jace’s story, it tells you a lot about the type of player he is and what type of worker he is,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “If you can be diligent enough to work back from something like he did, to me, that says he’s the type of player that can really be what Merrimack hockey is all about.”

Following the injury, he was in a body cast for about nine months, which limited him to no mobility from his hips to the top of his chest.

“It was similar to what Mason Raymond had,” Hennig said.

Raymond suffered a similar injury in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, when Johnny Boychuk delivered a check into the boards as Raymond’s body was twisted and slightly bent over.

“I did nothing for about nine months,” Hennig said. “I had to wear that cast for 24 hours a day. I really had no movement at all. After I was able to get out of that cast, I started rehab and that really started with just basic movements. I had to re-learn a lot of basic movements. I gradually moved into stretching and then into yoga and thankfully after that, getting back on the ice.”

Merrimack has had similar stories in the past. Last season’s captain, Jordan Heywood, missed a year of hockey after being diagnosed with a blood disorder, but came back earned a Division I scholarship.

Hennig was just 14 years old at the time. While a lot for a youngster to take, there was never question in his mind he would someday lace his skates back up.

“There was a little skepticism as to whether or not I’d play again,” he said. “But I knew nothing was going to hold me back. I was too young to let something like that restrict me from doing something I love.”

Once Hennig was back in the game, it didn’t take long for NCAA teams to take notice. His first year in midgets, during the 2011-12 season with the Vancouver NE Chiefs, he totaled 52 points in just 24 games, scoring 24 goals and adding 28 assists. He was moved up to the British Columbia Hockey League as a 16-year-old later that same season.

Merrimack was one of the first schools to talk to Hennig, who was also recruited by Penn State and St. Cloud State, that same season.

“When I first came back in midgets, I had a really good first six months, and then I had some schools talking to me,” he said. “At that time, I didn’t really know much about college hockey so I sat down with my family and my brother, and he really helped by doing a lot of the researching on the campuses and what it was all about. I’m really glad I’m here at Merrimack.

“(Merrimack) was one of the first ones to talk to me. I was 16 when I committed here. For them to talk to me that early, especially right after what happened with me, to show faith in me after an injury like that was something I’ll remember. That was important to me.”

When Hennig first returned to the ice after a two-year absence, he said the biggest adjustment wasn’t worrying about being re-injured, but it was the speed of the game. It’s been a similar adjustment now that he has two collegiate games under his belt.

“The speed was a lot different than what I spent watching for two years,” he said. “Everything was going a million miles per hour.

“Here, from what I’ve noticed, you have one second less and everyone is a lot stronger.”

Wherever that marked puck now sits, many in North Andover hope it’s the first of many big goals for Hennig and his classmates. Last weekend, Dennehy paired Hennig with fellow freshmen Mathieu Tibbet and Seney, and in all, there are 10 rookies in his class.

“We liked what they were doing early on so we put them together,” Dennehy said. “I think they spend more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone, which is a positive.”

He added after the game on Friday, “You watch them in the offensive zone, and you can see that they have an idea.”

Seats Gone for Merrimack-UConn

There are no more seats renaming for Saturday’s game between Merrimack and UConn at Lawler Arena, according to the Merrimack athletic department, but there are some standing-room-only tickets still available at the box office.

Saturday’s game will be the first broadcast of the season on the Merrimack Sports Network, with the game airing on WBIN locally and streamed worldwide on ESPN3.

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Warriors Tie UConn Late, Win in OT

NORTH ANDOVER – The night’s festivities began with Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna welcoming Connecticut to Hockey East with a ceremonial pick drop at center ice in honor of the Huskies’ first game in the conference.

The night ended with Merrimack spoiling the party.

Ed. Note — Portions of this story appeared in the Oct. 19 edition of The Eagle Tribune)

Trailing 1-0 despite dominating the game’s possession, the Warriors scored the equalizer with 33.1 seconds left in regulation and won the game 2:52 into overtime.

The Warriors improved to 3-0 on the season, 1-0 in Hockey East, while the Huskies fell to 0-2-1.

UConn outshot the Warriors 9-8 in the first period, scoring to make the score 1-0 with just 29 seconds left. Defenseman David Drake sent a puck from the left point that knuckled and hit a Merrimack defender’s stick in front, deflecting past Rasmus Tirronen (17 saves).

The Warriors were a new team in the second, outshooting UConn 35-9 for the remainder of the game, but they couldn’t tie the score until the waning seconds.

After a scrum in front of the goal, freshman forward Brett Seney tried to sneak a puck in backdoor, but UConn goalie Rob Nichols made one of his 41 saves. Seney followed up his own rebound by chipping the puck over a sprawled Nichols.

“We knew we just had to keep getting pucks to the net,” Seney said. “We knew if we did that we’d get some bounces, they got their bounce in the first, so it was good to get ours there in the third.”

For Seney, a freshman, it was his second goal of the season.

The Warriors won the game after Hampus Gustafsson was able to jam a follow-up shot past Nichols.

“I was actually going for a change and the puck was just there,” he said. “I missed the first one but I banged in the rebound.”

In four games, if you include the exhibition, the Warriors have now made comebacks in three of them. In the exhibition opener against St. Francis, the Warriors erased a two-goal deficit late in the third period to earn a tie. Last Friday, in the season opener at Holy Cross, the Warriors watched a two-goal lead evaporate before scoring a game-winning goal in the third period. Now last night, the Warriors erased a one-goal deficit with seconds to spare before winning in overtime.

“There’s a different feel,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “It’s early on in the season, but even coming back from St. Francis down 2-0, when you do those things it starts to plant good memories and you start to put together a good belief system. It doesn’t come from anywhere. In order to believe you have to have some good things happen to you, and there is a growing belief system in our locker room.”

Merrimack 2, Connecticut 1 (OT)
at Lawler Arena, Merrimack College
Connecticut (0-2-1, 0-1-0 HE): 1-0-0-0–1
Merrimack (3-0-0, 1-0-0 HE): 0-0-1-1–2
First Period: 1. UC David Drake 1 (unassisted), ev, 19:32.
Second Period: None.
Third Period: 2. MC Brett Seney 2 (Kyle Singleton, Clayton Jardine), ex, 19:27.
Overtime: 3. MC Hampus Gustafsson (Mathieu Tibbet, Brian Christie), ev, 2:52.
Shots: Merrimack 8-15-15-5–43 (93 attempts); Connecticut 9-3-6-0–18 (39 attempts)
Saves: MC Tirronen 17 saves; UC Nichols 41 saves
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 4; Connecticut 0 for 4
Penalties: Merrimack 4-8; Connecticut 4-8
Faceoffs: 40-33 Merrimack
Next: at Mercyhurst Friday,

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Three Thoughts: Merrimack 2, UConn 1 (OT)

NORTH ANDOVER – Merrimack College defeated Connecticut, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday night. Brett Seney (2) and Hampus Gustafsson (2) scored for the Warriors while David Drake (1) scored his first collegiate goal for the Huskies. Rasmus Tirronen stopped 17 of 18 shots for Merrimack and at the other end, Rob Nichols saved 41 of 43.

Here are three thoughts or observations from Saturday’s game:

1.Tirronen quietly stellar – Rasmus Tirronen, on the season,is 3-0 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.32 goals-against average. No goaltender will be able to match that pace for an entire 34-game schedule, but Tirronen has been spectacular for the Warriors to start the season, and it’s gone relatively unnoticed. The only puck that beat him on Saturday was a knuckling shot from the left point that also re-directed off one of his own defenders in front of the goal. Of the four goals he has allowed in three games, the only one I thought he could really be faulted on was the second goal scored at Holy Cross last Friday. The other three have all been through screens or deflected and re-directed in front of him. Again, you can’t expect him to carry a .943 save percentage throughout an entire season, but it’s been a brilliant start for Tirronen.

As much as the offense hurt the Warriors last season, a team save percentage of .890 was equally as killing. Tirronen finished the season with a .908 save percentage, which if you plug into last season’s numbers for the team as a whole, would have brought the Warriors’ expected wins from eight to almost 11. That’s three more wins, with the same third-worst-in-the-nation offense, just from 18 more percentage points in team save percentage.

Good teams – and those good Merrimack teams of 4-5 years ago – were all built with not only good scoring, but great goaltending. So far, Tirronen has given the Warriors great goaltending.

2.Less Pressure – UConn really seemed to back off on the pressure beginning with the start of the second period. The Huskies weren’t overly-aggressive on the puck carrier in the first period, but UConn’s defenders seemed more passive in the defensive zone in the second and third periods, which led to long possessions for the Warriors in the offensive zone. Shot attempts in the game were 93-39 in favor of Merrimack, but attempts were 78-16 from the opening draw of the second period until the end of the game. Merrimack used the extra time to setup in the offensive zone and the D got involved frequently, especially the defenseman on the right point. Of Merrimack’s 43 shots on goal, 16 were from defenseman, including six from Jared Kolquist.

Merrimack’s D had all the time they wanted possessing the puck in the offensive zone at the points. At times, it was almost like watching a power play. UConn applied very little pressure up top which allowed Merrimack’s forwards underneath to create space through some movement, and pucks making it to the net with a high frequency.

3. Draws key — Final face-off numbers were 40-33 in favor of Merrimack, but those numbers really tilted in Merrimack’s favor in the second and third periods, which clearly helped facilitate Merrimack’s off-the-charts possession numbers. After losing 16 of 25 face-offs in the first period, Merrimack won 31 of 48 the rest of the night. At one point in the first period, UConn had a stretch where it won 12 of 14 draws. Hampus Gustafssonled the Warriors, winning 17 of 26.

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Mack’s Mailbag for Oct. 19, 2014

You can participate in Mack’s Mailbag by emailing Mikesending him a question on Twitter or on his Ask.fm feed

I went to read your story on The Eagle Tribune’s website this morning (Sunday) but it did not show up there. Can you send me a copy?
The error is on my end. When we format our stories in the editing system, I need to mark it a certain way so it pushes to the web, and clearly I’m not doing it correctly. I’m trying to figure out what the issue is this week.

Who has been Merrimack’s most impressive freshman you have seen on defense and offense so far?
It’s obviously still early, but up front Brett Seney has impressed, despite his somewhat lofty expectations. Defensively, Jared Kolquist has come better than advertised and Marc Biega is wonderful with the puck.

Any vet you notice that might be most improved
Again, it’s obviously early, but Clayton Jardine is filling a different role – he’s the new Rhett Bly – and he’s playing well. Hampus Gustafsson was good last year, and I think he has taken his game to another level from what we’ve seen through three games.

Mike, what was the rule in (Saturday night’s) game when the goalie was trying to pull his stick off and dislodged the net, isn’t it delay of game?
I tweeted this at the time the play occurred, but I have no idea. If I’m making up the rule, what feels right to me is that if the goalie dislodges the net while the puck is in the zone, it’s delay of game. He intentionally stopped the play at that point, because he didn’t have a stick. I don’t care if his stick was stuck, he was pulling at it and intentionally dislodged the net. He didn’t bump into it. If the puck was in the neutral zone or at the other end of the ice, it’s just a whistle for a stoppage. That’s what feels right to me, but as for what the actual rule is, I have no idea.

Thoughts on the exhibition games vs CIS teams? Versus maybe versus ACHA schools? 
CIS teams provide better competition. There are some ACHA schools that could give NCAA teams a competitive game, but not nearly enough to satisfy 59 NCAA teams looking for exhibitions. Plus, and I’d have to look this up, but is it allowed? I would imagine that someone would have done this already if it were allowed. At least once or twice we would have seen it happen.

Why not talk to Plevy about all this and just the team. Only got one side and it bit you
I reached out to Plevy through the Bandits twice since he left MC, and both emails were ignored by the team. Even wrote that in one of my stories at the time. If he wanted a forum, he had one, and I wouldn’t be doing my job correctly if I didn’t give him the opportunity to speak. He didn’t take the offer.

Based on what you see from current D1/Potential D1 forwards, what seperates them from the DIII/ rest if the pack players (physical/mental/skills)? 
A lot of times it’s their skating. There are a lot of really good players who were great in juniors, and had great hands, but couldn’t keep up. Skating is the most important attribute. Vision and hockey IQ certainly helps, but if you can skate, you have a good chance. Also, play away from the puck. Everyone always wants a 2-way player. But a lot of players who score 30-35 goals in the EJ – or USPHL now – that aren’t making it are being held back because of their skating.

Why can’t a player in Canadian major junior play college hockey when they’re done if their junior career ends at 20? 
NCAA says the CHL is a pro league … Basically, what it comes down to is that NHL teams can assign players to CHL teams, so because of that, NCAA determines that players are playing with professional players, therefore losing their amateur status.

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Merrimack’s Schedule Much Friendlier This Time Around

Scheduling has become just as important as recruiting, especially after realignment shuffled the deck in college hockey, nearly doubling the number of non-conference games for Hockey East teams

NORTH ANDOVER – Everyone in the Merrimack’s locker room remembers how last season began. Two shut out losses at the University of Denver set the tone for a season where the Warriors struggled to score and find the win column.

Everyone in the Merrimack locker room is also tired of talking about last year.

The Warriors off to a 3–0 start this fall, and unlike last season, the schedule has been much friendlier, with two of their first three games on home ice.

It was also a somewhat of a self-inflicted wound last season. Teams are responsible for their own non-conference scheduling, and over the course of a college hockey season, teams almost always perform better home than they do on the road. Wins, goals, and shots statistics typically will prove that theory.

Last year’s team started with the two losses at Denver, but then came home for four straight non-conference games, going 3-1 over that stretch.

Not every team in the country can start their season at home, of course. The Warriors didn’t start this season at home, but playing two out of their first three games at Lawler Rink has helped the Warriors gain some momentum and much needed confidence.

“Scheduling has really moved up on my priority list since the restructuring,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “It’s something I don’t think I did a very good job of last year. Where you play, how many road games you play in a row, there are a lot of factors. It’s a long season time wise, but it’s a short season game wise. We only have 31 games left this season. That’s an NHL playoffs, plus about four games. Getting off to a good start is really important, and especially when you have a young team. I definitely paid much more attention to our schedule this year and hopefully moving forward I won’t drop the ball again.”

Last season’s trip to Denver was Merrimack’s last non-conference series on the books that did not include a return trip to Lawler Rink. It also sounds like it might be one of the last times the Warriors start the season with a tough trip on the road, if they can help it.

Non-conference scheduling typically work in one of two ways:

First, a team will travel to another program’s rink in one season, with the series flipping to the road team’s home rink in the second season. It’s the same scenario that Merrimack and UNH have put together with Clarkson and St. Lawrence for the next two seasons. Or, as Merrimack did with Holy Cross and will do with Quinnipiac later this season, the teams will play a home-and-home series in a single season. Teams have also negotiated a 2-for-1 deal, we are one team will travel twice for one set of home games.

The second scenario is when the home team simply pays for the games. In order to avoid traveling – and in the interest of stockpiling home games on their schedule – there are many teams who simply want to cut a check for another program to travel to the rink. It’s a common practice not only in college hockey, but in basketball and football as well.

Dennehy said last season that the Warriors were no longer interested in being paid for games. They want to return trips to Lawler Rink.

But Dennehy has also talked about the benefit of in early season road trip. This weekend, the Warriors will travel to Erie, Pennsylvania to take on Mercyhurst, a team that visited Lawler Rink last season.

“In the past I’ve talked about early-season road trips being bonding opportunities,” said Dennehy, “and again, not to go too far into the past, but it’s nice to get off on a good start because that’s a bonding opportunity as well. This is really our first chance to travel as a group and for us to get into the cocoon of Merrimack hockey. Our players will eat, drink and sleep it for 24 hours while we’re away. I think the guys are looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to item aside from missing our families. Being on the road is like pro hockey, it’s pretty cool..

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Biega Scores Twice, Merrimack Buries Mercyhurst in OT

ERIE, Pa. — Twice Merrimack College freshman Marc Biega would score to give the Warriors a lead, the last time coming in overtime, as the Warriors beat Mercyhurst 5-4 on Friday night to improve to 4-0-0 on the season.

All four of Merrimack’s wins have come by one goal; the Warriors went 2-8 in one-goal games last season.

Justin Mansfield also potted two goals for the Warriors, who saw four of their five goals come from defensemen. Brian Christie also scored in the third period.

The Warriors were about to win in regulation but with Mercyhurst goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Matthew Zay managed to snipe home the game-tying tally with 32 seconds to play on a snap shot from the left point that caught the upper-right twine, sending the contest to overtime.

“Tough place to play, and we played a very good team that’s very good at what they do,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “It’s nice to be able to score goals, it sure takes off the team. And sometimes you have to win ugly, and I would say that’s what we did tonight. At the end of the day, it’s a win, and it looks really good in March, and we’ve got to be ready to get back after it tomorrow.”

With Alec Shields in the box for slashing, Merrimack’s first power-play unit was generating a few golden looks, it wasn’t until senior Dan Kolomatis dumped in a high shot that banked off the left corner and to sophomore Hampus Gustafsson, who managed to find Biega at the left half wall. The rookie blueliner maneuvered his way in between a trio of Mercyhurst skaters before firing a low-blocker shot that evaded Sarjeant’s reach and found the back of the net, as the freshman’s second tally of the night gave the Warriors’ their fourth win of the year.

The final shot chart saw the Warriors finish with a 38-32 edge in their favor, while the team also won 33 of 61 faceoffs. Merrimack out-attempted Mercyhurst 57-53, and in their 4-0 start, the Warriors have out-attempted every team this season.

The teams will finish their two-game weekend series Saturday night.

##

Second Period Dooms Merrimack; Warriors Fall at Mercyhurst

ERIE, Pa. — Coming into Merrimack College’s weekend series at Mercyhurst, there was no question the undefeated Warriors were going to face their biggest challenge of the young season, facing the team picked to win Atlantic Hockey and fresh off a 21-win season that nearly brought the Lakers to the NCAA Tournament.

Merrimack passed a test on Friday, winning a shootout in overtime, 5-4. On Saturday, a sloppy second period was their ultimate undoing, falling to the Lakers, 3-2, in the rematch.

Merrimack allowed three goals in the second period – all at even strength – and were outshot 12-9. In the first and third periods combined, Merrimack outshot the Lakers 26-9 (16-7 1st, 10-2 3rd).

“The first period might’ve been the best period of hockey we played all year; the only problem with it was it was a little too easy. We could’ve played harder but we possessed the puck and made great plays, supported each other and unfortunately we thought that’s how it was going to be all game,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said.

After an eight minute, 20 second stretch that saw the Lakers jump out to a 3-0 lead on 11 shots, the Warriors were finally able to settle the pace down.

“They came out in the second and we fell asleep,” Dennehy said, “we went away from doing what we need to do and they capitalized. It’s a lesson that we need to learn, committing to 60-plus minutes. We put a little push at the end but it wasn’t enough. We need to play a lot harder, didn’t play nearly as hard as we need to. In the third it was better, but Hockey East is going to be a lot tougher than that and we had too many guys taking the path of least resistance. It’s a lesson learned, and we still gave ourselves a chance to win, it just wasn’t enough tonight.”

With just under two minutes left in the period, Alfred Larsson scored his first collegiate goal after sending a puck to the net from the right boards that appeared to be a centering pass that bounced around in front.

The Warriors remained down two goals heading into the third period, and the Lakers ultimately gave them plenty of opportunity to get back into the game. Mercyhurst put the Warriors on the power play three times in the final period, and including the 1:07 of man-advantage time that carried over from the second period, the Warriors spent 7:03 of the game’s final 20 minutes on the power play.

With 24 seconds remaining in the game, Brett Seney was able to pounce on his third goal of the season in front of the net to make it 3-2; Seney’s goal came on the power play with the Merrimack’s net also empty. The Warriors had another golden opportunity late, but the door was closed quickly by Mercyhurst goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant.

At the other end, Merrimack freshman Collin Delia made his first collegiate start, turning away 18 of the 21 shots he faced.

Final shot attempts were 64-37 in favor of the Warriors.

Merrimack plays next on Friday afternoon, when it travels to Newark, New Jersey to face UConn in the opening round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational Tournament. The Warriors will face either Princeton or Yale next Sunday, pending Friday’s results.

##

Merrimack Ties UConn; Falls in Tournament Shootout

NEWARK, N.J. – Merrimack College once again had to come from behind, twice, to tie Connecticut, 2-2, on Friday afternoon at the Prudential Center in the opening round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational Tournament.

The game will go on record as a tie; the Warriors lost a shootout, 2-0, to determine advancement in the tournament, and will play in Sunday’s consolation game at 1 p.m. against either Princeton or Yale.

On the power play in the second period, Vinny Scotti was able to direct a Brian Christie centering feed past Rob Nichols for Merrimack’s first goal of the game. Spencer Naas scored in the first period to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

After Kasperi Ojantakanen scored to give UConn a 2-1 lead just 23 seconds into the third period, Merrimack defenseman Dan Kolomatis snapped a wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic and past Nichols.

Merrimack was the recipient of two five-minute power plays, and later in the third, the Warriors would be down two men after back-to-back slashing and tripping minors, but Merrimack’s penalty kill wasn’t solved.

Final shot attempts in the game were 70-41 Merrimack, and final shots on goal were 40-22 Merrimack, including a 21-4 edge in the second period.

Rasmus Tirronen made 20 saves in goal for Merrimack while Nichols stopped 38 saves at the other end for UConn.

The Podcasts

John Leahy’s pregame interview with Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-dennehypre.mp3

Intermission with JR F John Gustafsson
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-jgustafsson.mp3

Intermission with College Hockey News Managing Editor Adam Wodon
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-wodon.mp3

Postgame with Warrior of the Game SR D Dan Kolomatis
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-kolomatis.mp3

Postgame with JR F Vinny Scotti
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-scotti.mp3

Postgame with head coach Mark Dennehy
http://www.warriorhockey.org/podcast/20141031-dennehy.mp3.

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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