Despite putting together a better 60 minutes, Merrimack lost at UMass Lowell, 4-1, in Saturday night’s series finale at Tsongas
LOWELL, Mass. – In a weekend series one week ago against Massachusetts, Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said he thought his team played better in a loss last Sunday than in a tie on Friday.
In many ways, this weekend must have felt eerily similar.
Merrimack College was lucky to escape Lawler Rink on Friday night with two points against UMass Lowell, and had only goaltender Rasmus Tirronen – he made 51 saves on Friday – to thank.
Well the luck ran out on Saturday.
Despite playing a much better overall game, misfortunes struck the Warriors from the very beginning in the season finale with the River Hawks at the Tsongas Center. Just 23 seconds into the game, Zack Kamrass beat Rasmus Tirronen to make it 1-0 and seconds after that, the Warriors put Lowell on the power play when a holding penalty was called on Quinn Gould.
(Ed. Note – Portions of this story will appear in Sunday’s Eagle Tribune)
“We didn’t start the way we would have liked with a goal on the first shift,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “But I thought a split (in the series) was probably apropos. We did some really good things. We were resilient, it just wasn’t enough.”
From there, the Warriors were able to sustain much more momentum on the offensive side of the puck than they did on Friday. When they did pressure Lowell with the puck, however, costly turnovers would turn into Lowell goals.
On the power play in the second period, the Warriors were retreating for a cleared puck and coughed it up just feet in front of Tirronen, and right on the stick of C.J. Smith who buried his chance.
In the third period, an errant pass in the neutral zone hit Adam Chapie right on his blade, and he raced in alone, beating Tirronen to the glove side.
“If you allow (the turnovers) to be frustrating, it can be,” Dennehy said. “We had some things going well there in the second period. I thought it propelled us. We had a lot of energy.”
Dennehy and his staff simplified things on Saturday for the Warriors in the defensive zone. Dennehy said he believed the Warriors were hesitant, particularly in the defensive zone, on Friday and played with more speed last night.
Lowell out-attempted Merrimack 94-29 and outshot the Warriors 52-17 on Friday. Last night, the shots were 24-22 in Lowell’s favor and shot attempts were actually in Merrimack’s favor, 48-44. At even strength, the Warriors out-attempted the River Hawks 37-35.
“We were running around a lot (on Friday),” he said. “We tried to simplify things today. We watched video and I think the guys understood it better. What can be a small speed advantage becomes a big one because (Lowell) knows what they are doing before it happens and we’re wondering. We took a lot of question marks out of the equation and the result was us playing faster.”
Lines shuffle again
For the second time in as many weekends, the Warriors shook up their lines between the first and second games of a weekend series.
Justin Mansfield, a converted forward who had been a defenseman for most of the last three seasons, played his third game at forward last night and Craig Wyszomirski, another defenseman, played his second game of the year up front.
“We’re still searching a little bit,” Dennehy said. “We haven’t had a consistent level of compete. We’re still relatively young and we have some guys who haven’t been in the roles that they’re in and so sometimes they’re easily satisfied. This morning wasn’t pretty for the coaching staff. You scratch your head and wonder, ‘how good can we be?’ So I give our guys a lot of credit because we came back and proved that we can compete with a team that’s going to contend for the league championship and a national championship.”
Merrimack star freshman Brett Seney, injured in the third period of Friday’s game at Lawler Rink, missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury.
“I don’t know (when he’ll be back in the lineup),” Dennehy said. He’s day to day.”
Dennehy, who broke his wrist last week and has been coaching in a cast, later joked, “He’ll be back before I will be.”
UMass Lowell 4, Merrimack College 1
at Tsongas Center, UMass Lowell
Merrimack College (14-9-2, 5-7-2 HE): 0-1-0–1
UMass Lowell (16-8-3, 9-5-3 HE): 1-2-1–4
First Period: 1. UML Zack Kamrass 5 (Michael Kapla, C.J. Smith), ev, 0:23.
Second Period: 2. UML Joe Gambardella 7 (unassisted), ev, 4:19; 3. MC Ben Bahe 2 (Brian Christie), ev, 7:48; 4. UML Adam Chapie 9 (unassisted), sh, 9:42.
Third Period: 5. UML C.J. Smith 12 (unassited), sh, 5:40.
Shots: Merrimack 5-7-11–23; Lowell 7-8-9–24
Saves: MC Tirronen ; UML Boyle
Next: Hosts Boston College Friday, 7 p.m.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN