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VIP Flashback (4 Yrs. Ago): Collins Signs Pro Contract

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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 and eight years ago.

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Collins Joins Iowa Wild

Former Merrimack winger Mike Collins has joined the Iowa Wild (AHL) after being released from his PTO by the Providence Bruins.

Collins, who has now appeared in six AHL games since Merrimack’s season finished on March 8, make his Iowa debut over the weekend. On Friday night, Collins dressed as the Wild took on the Toronto Marlies, and Saturday night Collins faced his former Merrimack teammate, Joe Cannata, who is the goaltender for the Utica Comets in the Vancouver Canucks organization.

Collins put a pair of pucks on Cannata – he stopped them both – as Utica won the game, 3-2.

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Merrimack Holds Third NFL Pro Day

Merrimack College held its third annual NFL Pro Day on Thursday and senior quarterback Joe Clancy had most of the eyeballs fixated on him.

Clancy, who shattered nearly every Merrimack passing record and most of the Northeast-10’s, has been working out in Florida since the competition of the fall semester; he was a fifth-year senior after applying for a redshirt season.

“It’s definitely helped him,” Merrimack head coach Dan Curran said. “A lot of times, in D2, guys don’t get that chance. You don’t see guys redshirt a lot because if they’re that good, they’re playing right away and you usually don’t have the depth. With Joe, having this time to really work on his mechanics and he’s gotten stronger – he has always has great football IQ – he definitely hasn’t even hit his ceiling yet.”

Shane Ferguson, Quinn McDonough, Michael Hubbard and Artis Holt, fellow 2014 graduates, also participated as well as 2013 graduates Isaiah Voegeli and Kevin Marks.

New England Patriots scout Brandon Yeargan conducted the day’s workout, which included several events: the vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, shuttle cone runs, 40-yard dash, individual workouts and positional drill workouts.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the day’s workouts

Curran said about five or six teams are seriously considering Clancy, who has helped re-shape Merrimack’s program the past five seasons. Teams that were unable to make Merrimack’s pro day, which is late in the season compared to others, asked the coaching staff to send tape of Clancy throwing, Curran said.

“I look at Joe the same way I look at a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick,” Curran said. “He’s taken the program and has brought it to another level. You look at what he did, and realistically he could go down as one of the best to ever play in this conference. A bad day for him is four touchdowns and a pick.”

Several AFC teams have kept a close eye on Clancy as he has participated at pro days, including Harvard’s, as well as at the Medal of Honor Bowl last fall. The Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets are just a few of the teams taking notice.

“Even some teams that can’t make it (to the pro day), they want us to send them tape the same day,” Curran said. “It’s great for the program. This shows that kids can come here and get noticed. Just look at guys like (Shawn) Loiseau, Tony Johnson (James) Suozzo. I think we’re starting to get a reputation as a program that can help you develop.”

Just based on his position, with only three spots available per team, the path to an NFL roster spot for Clancy is long and filled with more obstacles than if he were a linebacker or running back, where special teams might be an option. But after watching him carve up the rest of the NE-10 the past three seasons, Curran believes his quarterback has what it takes.

“First of all, his IQ is excellent,” he said, “and I mean off the charts. His footwork has gotten a lot better, he has a great arm. It’s definitely hardest for quarterbacks, running backs and kickers, though.

“Usually at this time of year, you start to see guys who were over-projected slip, other guys stay where they are and others are rising. Joe is definitely in the camp that is rising. He’s sort of a late bloomer as it is, but his stock has really risen the last few months and a lot of teams are interested in seeing him live or on video (from our pro day).”

He continued, “I had one scout tell me that (Clancy) wasn’t just on their board as a guy they wanted to snag in free agency, this team had him as a draftable guy. You think about that, sometimes I do, I sit back and think of where we’re coming from and where we’re going as a program and it’s exciting.”

The NFL Draft starts on May 8 and will conclude on May 10. Merrimack also announced that it will holds its annual spring game on April 26 at 1 p.m. at Martone-Mejail Field.

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Recruiting: Tyler Drevitch Featured By Junior Hockey Players

Merrimack recruit Tyler Drevitch was recently profiled by Kristia Patronick of JuniorHockeyPlayers.com, where the 2016 recruit talked about committing to Merrimack.

“As a young boy I dreamed of going to a big school,” he said. “But as I got older, I researched schools more. For Merrimack, I liked that it was small. It’s a really unified campus and it’s not a big student body so you get to meet a lot of new people. And the coaching staff there – those are people I can really see myself playing with in the future.”

Click here to read the entire story.

Drevitch just wrapped up his season with the Boston Bandits of the Eastern Hockey League, finishing with 14 goals and 31 assists in 51 games. His brother, Logan, is also a D1 prospect, currently considered one of the top ’98-born prospects in New England and is uncommitted.

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’96 D Ethan Spaxman Commits to Merrimack for 2015

Photo by MJoy/Fargo Force

Merrimack College has received a commitment from ’96-born defenseman Ethan Spaxman of The Hill Academy in Ontario for 2015.

Spaxman is also on the affiliate list for the Fargo Force (USHL) and appeared in two games for the Force at the end of this season. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound defenseman has played two seasons at Hill Academy. Spaxman will play for the Force next season before matriculating to Merrimack in 2015.

“Ethan is a smooth skating, puck moving defenceman,” said Hill Academy head coach Doug Orr. “He has good feet for a big D, and also has a great shot. He showed great strides in his development this year, and continues to get better everyday. Ethan is a great kid, and great teammate.”

Spaxman played in 64 games for Hill Academy this season, registering 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) and was a plus-30 rating.

Jasper Kozak-Miller of OverTheBoards.net described Spaxman as: “A great frame to work with and takes care of his own end. I don’t think, back in October (when he saw him play), that he was the player he’s going to be, but his physical tools and ability to read the play bode well and he could project out as a top four, top-two, two-way D with shutdown ability in college.”

Sean LaFortune of TheScout.ca describes Spaxman as a “a big, rangy defender with shutdown potential.”

According to some scouts, Spaxman could be on the radar for the 2015 NHL Draft if he continues to develop with Fargo, especially with his size.

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Karl Infanger Steps Down as Natick Coach

Former Merrimack College defenseman Karl Infanger has stepped down as head coach at Natick High School in order to spend more time with his young family, according to a story in the MetroWest Daily News.

Infanger has spent five seasons at Natick, posting a 53-50-9 record. He told Natick athletic director Tim Collins of his decision after spending time coaching his 10-year-old son in a tournament last weekend.

“I kind of like to take the family-first approach at Natick, and I’ve got to listen to my own words,” Infanger told the paper. “I’m going to dedicate the next 5-6 years to my family. I live in Medway, so maybe I’ll help out there a little.”

“That night after we got home (from the tournament), that put the nail in the coffin. My son was like, ‘that was a lot of fun.’ He played four games in 24 hours, spent the night up there, had dinner with the team. I knew it meant a lot to him and it meant a lot sharing it with him. I don’t want to miss out on that.”

Infanger also coaches his nine-year-old daughter’s youth team. The Billerica native currently lives in Medway, Mass.

The Redhawks qualified for the state tournament in four of his five seasons, including reaching the Division 1 South Sectional final in 2012.

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Q&A With Merrimack Head Coach Mark Dennehy

Merrimack College head coach Mark Dennehy doesn’t mince words when it comes to the 2013-14 season and how he and the program are looking ahead to the pending offseason and 2014-15 regular season, which will get underway in just under six months.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, right?” he said. “That’s not what we’re going to do.”

(Ed. Note: This conversation took place nearly three weeks ago, at the start of the NCAA tournament. Posting it has been delayed while I covered the NCAA tournament and Frozen Four for College Hockey News)

Dennehy sat down with The Mack Report to discuss the season that was, and how the Warriors are trying to turn the page and write a much different story in 2014. Below is a transcript of that conversation, which took place on March 28, 2014.

Mike McMahon: At this point, you have had a few weeks to digest the season, in terms of big-picture things, what are some of the things you have looked back and reflected on?

Mark Dennehy: “The simplest way is usually the best way to go. This is going to sound incredibly simple, but we need to score more goals and we need to give up fewer. There are ways you can go about it. I thought we got better as the year went along in terms of defending and being hard to play against. What didn’t get better was our scoring. We had guys who have scored in the past who didn’t. For example, I think besides Mike Collins, we only had one more goal out of our senior class, and those guys have scored in the past. Both (Brendan) Ellis and (Jordan) Heywood have put pucks in the net, as well as (Rhett) Bly. There was a bit of an anomaly on that front.

“Then, we had some guys who were emerging. I think of Chris LeBlanc, who I think had 12 points in 23 games. To be a half-point player as a freshman tells you something. He gets hurt. Then we definitely had some guys who didn’t have the types of season we thought they would. We need to go back and see why, but really at the end of the day, it’s just finding a way to score goals, and give up fewer. I wasn’t happy with how many goals we gave up either. We gave up just under 100 goals and that’s too many. We need to be in the 75-80 area for us to have success.”

MM: In terms of trying to score more goals, now that you have some time, do you think you might change the way you guys play? Are you looking to tinker with the system to open up more scoring chances or was it more a case of just being able to finish the chances you had, because you look at things like shots on goal and shot attempts and most nights those categories were good for your team.

MD: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, right? That’s not what we’re going to do. With that said, we did get plenty of chances. If I had $1,000 for every coach I talked to who said, ‘I watched your last game, how were you not leading after the first period?’ I’d probably have enough money to renovate our locker room. That’s just the way it was. We’re getting chances, which is huge. That’s important.

“Part of what will change is personnel. We need some guys to elevate their game. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores who we thought got better as the year went on and then we’re going to have a lot of bodies coming in. Guys who have had some good production at the lower level. Now those numbers don’t always translate, but there is going to be enough of them that I think there will be an energy with that class.”

MM: When you look at players too, in recruiting those new guys, does a season like this change your approach? Are you looking now for different things in kids?/b>

MD: “We’ve got five teams from our league in the NCAA tournament. That’s more than any league.”

MM: And it wasn’t really close. The next closest was three.

MD: “OK. If you were to categorize each of those five teams as offensive or defensive, and I said Boston College, what would you say?

MM: Offensive.

MD: Notre Dame.

MM: They’re a good combination of both, but probably more defense.

MD: I’d say defense. Lowell, Providence, Vermont, that’s all defense. That’s how the game is played. And we played those teams and not had success against them as we’d like, but we had chances. If we continue to put ourselves in those places to get those chances, and we’ll have some different personnel like I said, I think we’ll be alright. This isn’t insanity. We’re not going to do the same thing next year and expect the same results. We’re subtracting some players – just graduation does that – and we’re adding a lot of players.”

MM: Who are some of those guys coming in next year that stand out to you? I know you can’t talk about all of them because some haven’t signed letters of intent yet, but of the ones who have, who are you really looking forward to bringing in?

MD: We’re building this from the net out. When I came here nine years ago, when I looked at our rink and our league, it was my determination and our assistant coaches that the best chance for us to win championships, not games, but championships, was to build it from the net out. I love Stephane Da Costa. I’d take another one of him in a heartbeat. But if I had to take him or Joe Cannata? Goaltending is just more important. For us to be where we want to be, it’s about goaltending.

“We’re trying to build a team. Not every player we bring in is going to be super offensive. We expect our guys, when they have chances, to be able to bury them, but some guys brought in will be defensive players or win faceoffs. Some will be good shot blockers. There are others who we think have more offensive flair. I don’t want to pick anyone out, I don’t think that’s fair to them, and we aren’t going to look to one guy to come in and change the trajectory of this program, we’re beyond that.

“We have a flame of culture that is still burning with this program, and they’re going to come in and stoke that flame.”

MM: That was going to be my next question, actually. You talked a lot about that this season, bringing that culture back. How does that change the way you approach this offseason? How will this offseason be different from the one after the 2010-11 season, or even the 2012-13 season?

MD: “I want to give our guys a lot of credit. One thing that didn’t change as the season started to be determined and the results weren’t what we wanted was our effort level. As a matter of fact, I thought we played harder at the end of the season. We never, never quit. We kept working.

“What did affect us is that we were gripping the sticks too tight. We never stopped playing hard.

“We need some confidence. That’s something we lack, is that believability. It’s one thing to talk about winning big games and winning championships, but it’s another thing to totally believe you can do it. We have adopted our core principles, but they’re also in line with something I read in Mike Babcock’s book, “Leave No Doubt,” called the cycle of success. Confidence is believe in yourself. How do you get there? That’s been a quest of mine really since my playing days.

“His words are really specific: ‘Preparation drives execution. Execution leads to success. Success leads to reinforcement. Reinforcement leads to confidence.’

“There is an order to it. You can’t skip one. I can’t give you reinforcement if you’re not having success. It’s something we’ve talked about. We’re working hard and I’ll pat them on the back for their efforts, and that’s how we’re going to approach this summer. We’re able to bring our freshmen on campus in July and President Hopey and (director of athletics) Jeremy (Gibson) have been great allowing us to take advantage of that NCAA change. We’ve talked about being Warriors. This summer, in July, that’s going to be their Warrior school, because we’re going to need this class to be able to come in and really hit the ground running.”

MM: I knew that you are allowed to have them on campus now in July, but what are you basically allowed to do?

MD: “They can take classes, they can live here and we can fund all of that. In the past they couldn’t even take classes. It started all in September. This just gives them an opportunity to come in and acclimate themselves.”

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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