By Greg Mandozzi
Staff Writer ‘18
As a New Englander, hockey runs through our veins. We grew up on the Boston Bruins and NHL video games, and nothing has changed since we arrived at Merrimack College. Our hockey fandom only grows as we all get ready to cheer on our Warrior team as they battle the titans of the Hockey East.
Playing in what is regarded as the best conference in the nation, Hockey East, Merrimack finds itself pinned up against some of the most revered programs in the country. The presence of schools such as Boston University, Boston College, UMass Lowell, Notre Dame, and the reigning national champions, Providence College, amongst others, are why the competition is so stiff. So how does the smallest school, with the smallest home arena in the Hockey East, fit into this equation?
Many would argue that Merrimack may be too small, or may not have the recruiting power that other schools have. Despite this, the team is proving that play on the ice is all that they can control, and that is what can silence the critics.
Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said in a postgame conference after skating to a 1-1 tie with rival UMass Lowell, “[It was] pretty exciting, I think this is a great place to watch a game because you are right on top of everything, you get a sense of the speed.” He would also describe it as a “playoff-type atmosphere game.”
This proves that small can be powerful, and Lawler rink is a great place to call home.
One way Merrimack is proving they can get great production out of their players, is the increased attention the NHL has given recent Warriors. Speedy sophomore Brett Seney was drafted in the 6th round of the NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils organization this past year. Former Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen is now in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. Chris Leblanc was drafted by the Ottawa Senators organization. Former Merrimack backstop Joe Cannata has played in the Vancouver Canucks system. Today we can see some of these younger Warriors getting up to the next level, showing how much more seriously the elite league is paying attention to Merrimack College hockey.
After an impressive start last year, the Warriors pulled off some impressive wins against strong schools. Following a slow end to the regular season, the Warriors entered the postseason as a low seed and went into the Hockey East tournament having to win two games at Northeastern to avoid being eliminated in the first round. And that is exactly what the Warriors did. They swept the Huskies on their home ice. Only the Hockey East Champions could stop the Warriors, as Merrimack would end up losing a couple of games at Boston University, the eventual champions of the conference.
The truth is, other schools count us out before the season even starts. But the Merrimack faithful does not give up on our players. The Warriors are just as tough, if not tougher than the next team, and Merrimack has done nothing but prove that with the success they have had in such a competitive conference.
The Warriors proved how well they can compete with the best as they beat Boston University 4-3 here at home this past Friday. Just another example of how size and stature means nothing when the heart and chemistry of a team is clicking on all cylinders. This win set the tone for this coming season, as they upset the defending conference champs.
Merrimack hockey is still growing as a program. We are still relatively young in comparison to the vast majority of other colleges, and we aren’t necessarily located in the heart of a major city like Boston. We aren’t the colossal state schools like UMass Amherst or the University of New Hampshire. Sometimes people may not recall our name when we tell them what school we go to. As the hidden gem of the Northeast, and the dark horse of the Hockey East, the sky’s the limit for the Warriors in seasons to come.
Photo source: Merrimack Warriors Instagram