’99-born defenseman Liam Dennison is one of the longest commitments heading to the roster this upcoming season. Originally committing more than three years ago out of The Hill Academy’s U16 team, Dennison blossomed into an effective puck-moving defenseman in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms the last two seasons.
Dennison first made waves at Youngstown’s camp in 2017 and this past season had 25 points (4 goals, 25 assists) in 49 games on the blue line, more than tripling his offensive output from his rookie year. In 2018, Dennison was on a Youngstown roster that made the Clark Cup Finals and he won ECEL U16 and U18 championships with The Hill Academy in 2016 and 2017.
Name: Liam Dennison
Hometown: Manotick, Ont.
Last Team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Major: Business Administration
TMR: The first question is the same one I ask all the players … you’re going through the recruiting process and looking at a lot of schools, so what made Merrimack stand out over the others?
Dennison: “I knew I wanted to come here when I came on my visit. I really liked the campus. I walked around and just thought that the campus fits me really well. It was small and it was a good community. Some of the other schools I visited were really spread out and they’re really big. When I visited here it was smaller and really tight-knit, which I liked.”
TMR: Were there other things you were looking for? A particular major?
Dennison: “The campus really played the biggest role for me. If there was one thing, in particular, it was the campus. It felt like a good spot for me and my parents really liked it here a lot. It was a family decision.”
TMR: You’ve spent the last two years in the USHL playing for Youngstown, which has sent quite a few players here to Merrimack including Chase Gresock, who just led the team in points last year and you played with him for a year, I think, two years ago. Where did you feel like your game grew most in the USHL?
Dennison: “You can’t take a night off in that league. I learned pretty quickly that you’re going out there every night playing against a lot of good players. Everyone is really good. Then you get to the college level and I’m sure that gets even harder and the players get even better. But that’s what you want.
“(The USHL) definitely helped me raise my game and it also helped me adjust to playing with travel. We traveled like crazy, and I know it won’t be nearly as bad here, which is good, but we’ll have some long trips and the USHL really prepares you for that.”
TMR: What’s the longest bus ride you had in the USHL?
Dennison: “We were the most eastern team in the league, so we had some really long rides. I think Fargo was about 20 hours on the bus, that was the longest.”
TMR: 20 hours? How does that even work? When do you skate?
Dennison: “If we played on Friday, we’d leave on Wednesday around noon and drive straight through the night. We’d get there early on Thursday and then practice then.”
TMR: How would you describe your style?
Dennison: “I’m an offensive defenseman. I can skate with the puck and I think I make a good first pass.”
TMR: What’s the best part of being on campus early? A lot of teams are doing this now, and everyone says it’s a huge advantage.
Dennison: “The best thing for me is just meeting the guys, especially with a big freshman class. It’s good to get in early and start becoming a team. We’ve done some fun stuff, we went to a Red Sox game, and things like that help bring the group together and you gel as a team.
“Then for someone like me, I haven’t taken regular classes in two years, so it’s a good thing for us to come in and take some classes over the summer to get us ready before we hit a full class load in the fall.”
TMR: With so many new players, there’s a lot of opportunities here for playing time. More than probably any other program in the country. How exciting is that as a freshman to know you’re coming into a situation where you could earn a spot right away?
Dennison: “Everyone is fighting for a spot, so there’s going to be a lot of competition in practice and that should make everyone better. We’ll be pushing each other from the first practice. That’s definitely unique to being here.”