Photo Credit: Mike McMahon
Mathew Galvao ’17, Sports Editor
The Merrimack men’s hockey team fell recently to the Boston University Terriers in the Hockey East quarterfinals in a two game sweep. The series ended the playoff run and the season for the Warriors which saw their win column improve by eight wins with a 16-18-4 record.
Merrimack finished the season in 11th place in the Hockey East standings and drew Northeastern in the first round. The Huskies were one of the hottest teams in the conference down the stretch winning the Beanpot tournament and winning 11 out of their last 18 games of the season. The two squads split the regular season series (4-2 Merrimack win) and (3-1 Northeastern win).
The series started off with a 3-2 overtime win for the Warriors. Merrimack held a 2-0 advantage in the third period before the Huskies were able to tie things up and send it into overtime. In the overtime period senior Kyle Singleton scored a shorthanded goal to give the Warriors a 1-0 advantage in the series.
Game two saw Northeastern take the one goal lead in the second period before Jace Hennig tied the game up just minutes later. The game would be sent to overtime and freshman Mathieu Tibbet jammed the puck in the net past Clay Witt to give the Warriors a sweep of the series and send them to the conference quarterfinals.
“I felt like we regained a lot of what we’ve done earlier on in the year. Ras obviously played well and our special teams was good. We got to really hard fought overtime victories,” said head coach Mark Dennehy. “I look at that weekend and it really put the stamp on the year for us. This was a really big step for our program.”
The team then drew top-seeded Boston University in the quarterfinals. It was a tough series that ended in a sweep for the Terriers and ended the season for Merrimack.
“They were the best team in our league this year. We wish we had done a better job in January and February of getting points that we should’ve had so we could maybe be home in that first round and don’t see BU until the one game elimination,” Dennehy explained.
“They’re a tough team to beat, they’re a tough team to beat twice, and they’re a tough team to beat at home. For us to have done what we wanted to do we needed all 20 guys firing on all cylinders.”
After one period in game one the teams were tied 1-1. A four-goal Boston University second period would give them the edge they needed to come away with a 6-2 win. Game two saw BU run away with it in the second period and the game by a 5-0 score.
A common theme this season has been the amount of freshman that this team has played with and have dressed in their lineup regularly. There have been up to six freshmen in the lineup on any given night. These young freshmen contributed nicely during the playoff run scoring 11 points in the Warriors four playoff games all on the road.
“Some players go their whole careers without winning a road playoff series. For this freshman class to be part of a team that’s already done that once we put that in the memory bank,” said Dennehy. “Just to win a playoff series, that’s clutch. Really good experience for them.”
Jace Hennig had a terrific first playoff scoring four goals and adding two assists for six points in four playoff games. Throughout the entire season Hennig has shown that he can compete and produce at the highest level of college hockey in one of the toughest conferences.
“Seney was our leading this season and deservedly so has got a lot of attention. Tibbs, you can’t help but notice him because of his speed. Jace has kind of laid in the weeds a little bit,” Dennehy explained. “He’s a steady, calming presence and has great hockey intellect, and good skill. He was the guy that was in the right position making the right play.”
There were many different players that were key to Merrimack’s success this season. Senior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen was the backbone of this team with his stellar goaltending throughout the season. Tirronen ended the season with a .929 save percentage which is a Merrimack record. He also finished the season with 2.30 goals against average and played in a career-high 31 games.
“He was an elite goaltender all year and he was one of the best goaltenders in the country. He gives us an effort and a chance every night. He was one one of our if not our best player every night,” said Dennehy. “I’m happy for him because I know hard hard he’s had to work to get there.”
The 2014-15 season was a year of much improvement for the Warriors. From doubling their win total to having one of the best penalty kills in the country it was an all around good year for the hockey team and a huge step for the program.
“I believe we scored ⅓ more goals than we scored last year, gave up fewer goals per game, have the best penalty kill in the league, score three more power play goals, doubled our wins and won a road playoff series,” explained Dennehy. “Is our culture growing and everybody understands how we operate will be the task, but I think the ingredients are there.”