Mack’s Mailbag for March 17, 2015

You can send a question for this feature either by emailing or on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN. As you’ll see below, all questions are asked anonymously.

I saw your numbers [Saturday] on Rasmus Tirronen. Is it safe to say that this is the best performance of any goalie for Merrimack in a single season?
Well it’s up there, for sure. If you look at the season (2011-12) when Joe Cannata posted his .925 save percentage, the Warriors allowed 1,128 shots that season, 1,056 which were stopped by Cannata. Cannata faced an average of 29.08 Shots/60 minutes, and he played all but 64 minutes that season.

Tirronen posted a .929 save percentage against 966 shots, averaging 32.18 Shots/60. So he stopped slightly more, percentage wise, while also facing more per 60 minutes of game time. I’d say both seasons were very good. Excellent, really. But comparing one to the other, Tirronen’s 2014-15 is slightly better than Cannata’s 2011-12, even if just slightly. He faced more shots, and stopped a small percentage more. Hard to argue with those facts.

At forward and on defense, who would you say made the biggest improvement from the start of the year to the end of the year? Who could have a big sophomore year offensively, out of the freshmen. I don’t mean Seney or Hennig, someone unexpected. Who do you think takes a big jump?
The most improved forward throughout the season not named Brett Seney or Jace Hennig is also the same player I think could have a big jump in offensive product, not named Brett Seney or Jace Hennig. That’s Mathieu Tibbet. He was a fixture early in the season on the line with Seney and Hennig, but he also spent some time out of the lineup. By the end of the year, not only was he in there every night, but I thought he really was one of their best forwards. When you talk about players going hard to the net, he was doing so on every shift. If that was the message being preached, he was hearing it and responding.

On defense, I thought Aaron Titcomb was great in the last 10-15 games. He was one of their best defenders in the last four weeks of the season. You have to like his size and strength, which is only going to get better as his progresses at Merrimack. I’ve always thought a big year for a player is that summer between the freshman and sophomore year.

If you were picking where Merrimack ends up next year right now, where do you think? Will they host in the first round?
It’s way too early to answer that question. With progression from some younger players, and what looks to be another class that should be able to step in and make an immediate impact, I’d say hosting in the first round is entirely possible. As for where I’d pick them, ask me in September.

Does Merrimack run the risk of losing Hampus [Gustafsson] or [Brian] Christie early to NHL deals this summer?
I wouldn’t think so. Both have good size and had solid seasons, so it’s possible. I haven’t heard anything, though.

What about Ras? Does he get an NHL shot somewhere?
Not sure. I know there were some teams watching him, so that’s a good sign. He might benefit from the Karl Stollery route, though. Play in the AHL or even overseas (in a good league) for a year, and then open yourself up as an unrestricted free agent next season. Stollery signed an AHL deal with Lake Erie after graduating Merrimack, and was signed to an NHL contract the next summer.

Tirronen had a very impressive season. If he only has AHL options, but plays well there next season, it’s very likely he’d earn an NHL contract with someone in need of stashing a goaltender.

After that, you never know what could happen. Look at former Maine goaltender Scott Darling. He wasn’t even in hockey one year ago, now he’s the backup for Chicago.

Have you heard anything new on Merrimack going D1 in all sports? Or what conference they will go to?
No. I think it’s a long process though. What Lowell did — jumping in a matter of months — is not the norm. America East was looking to add a bigger state school, and Lowell took the invite. Merrimack is in the process of searching for a conference. That’s easier said than done. Geographically there are only so many available to you, and also institutionally it has to be a good fit. The NEC seems to make the most sense, both geographically and given the size of other programs already in that conference, but you can’t just jump in and join. The NEC, we’ll use them as an example, needs to want expansion. Any conference needs to invite you. It’s not like you can jump in to whatever pool you like.

About the Author

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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