Dennison's return couldn't come at a better time
The following story appears in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
NORTH ANDOVER — Back in the fall, before the Merrimack hockey season even began, Merrimack defenseman Liam Dennison thought his season might be over.
“We were doing a drill in practice and I went into a corner and got hit up against the boards,” he said. “I just got fallen on. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was just a freak thing.”
Dennison’s leg buckled. He described it as the type of injury a quarterback suffers when he’s hit on the side of the leg.
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“I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen after that,” he said. “At first we thought that I might be out for the year. Then I had surgery and I had some good news after the surgery. From there my recovery went really well. It’s really a credit to the PT people I was working with and our staff here, including our trainer Derek (Lautieri) and our strength and conditioning coaches.
“This was definitely faster than we expected.”
Dennison returned over the weekend for the Warriors. He played huge minutes on Saturday night as the Warriors beat Providence, 3-0, at Lawler Arena to salvage a split in a two-game weekend series. He finished the weekend with one assist.
Dennison’s return was even more important given the events of the weekend. Junior defenseman Christian Felton went down in Friday’s game against the Friars after he suffered an apparent arm injury. Merrimack coach Scott Borek said after the game that the timetable for his return is still unknown.
Then very early in last night’s game, the Warriors lost Mike Brown to a similar injury after he was sandwiched between a Providence player and the glass.
“I thought (Dennison) had a great weekend,” said Borek. “With Brown and Felton out, Liam had to play a lot of minutes and it’s a testament to him that he was able to do that so early in his return. I was excited for him. I was excited for our defense as a whole because we lost a couple of important pieces and I thought that not only did Liam Dennison play well, Ivan (Zivlak), Adam (Arvedson), Slava (Demin) got his game to where he needed it to be. The whole defensive core was great.”
The Ontario native said he felt good after Saturday’s game, playing back-to-back nights. He returned to the ice about a month ago and recently was able to remove the red no-contact jersey in the lead-up to his in-game return.
This weekend, he just wanted to keep it simple.
“That’s what I kept telling myself,” he said. “Play hard, and keep it simple. I’ve played plenty of games and I just needed to make sure I played a simple game and I felt like I did that. I’m just really happy with how our team played tonight and came out with a win.”
The Warriors seemed to get back on track with last night’s win. Merrimack has struggled since the start of the second semester (1-3-1 entering Saturday’s game) but did go 13-4 in the first half.
Last night’s win improved their record to 15-7-1.
“We can get back to playing the way we played earlier in the season,” Dennison said. “I think tonight was a huge step.”
Dennison may have been off the ice for much of the first half, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t paying attention.
“While I was gone I was just trying to hang around the guys as much as possible and stay connected to the team," he said. “The guys were great, they really supported me the whole way. I can’t say enough good things about the teammates I have here.”
One of those teammates — Jordan Seyfert — went through a similar ordeal two years ago when he missed the entire 2020-21 season.
“He was a huge help,” Dennison said. “He talked with me a lot and helped me through the mental side of it.”
As for how he feels now?
“A little sore, but it’s a good feeling,” he said. “I’m just excited to be back and it felt great to get the win tonight.”