NORTH ANDOVER — Three games, three deficits, no losses.
That’s been Merrimack College’s story here at Lawler Arena this season. Last night, in their third home game, the Warriors erased a two-goal deficit before beating Northeastern, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 2,489.
The Warriors potted a pair of second-period goals from Shawn Bates and Mike Collins before Collins setup defenseman Jordan Heywood with a long lead pass with just 3:28 left in the third period for the game-winning goal.
The Warriors swept the weekend series and won the season series with the Huskies, 2-1.
“I do think that (Lawler Arena) is a home-ice advantage,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “This is not a fun place to play (for opponents). Confidence is an interesting thing with athletes and we have a level of confidence here at home, even when we’re down. Obviously I’d like us to be leading and confident but they’ve committed to a full 60 minutes and they gave our crowd something to cheer about (with the first goal). After that, the building got louder.”
After a lackluster first period, the Warriors trailed 2-0 heading into the dressing room.
“We just said to stay focus,” said junior Collins, when asked about the mood in the locker room at the first intermission. “We just needed to simplify things.”
After cutting the deficit on Bates’ first goal of the season, Collins tied the score with just 25 seconds remaining in the period.
“The timing of that goal was obviously crucial,” junior captain Jordan Heywood said, “but really it was that entire period. We came out hard. Good things happen when you come out with that effort and that goal was a result of that.”
Tirronen solid again
After shaking rust off in his first two starts (0-2-0, 4.50 goals-against, .842 save percentage), sophomore goaltender Rasmus Tirronen put in his second solid game in a row. In his last two games, Tirronen is 1-0-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage. He was forced to miss all of last season due to NCAA restrictions over a situation that stemmed from his home country of Finland but was able to practice with the Warriors. His start at Northeastern last month was his first game action in over a year.
“Ras is an interesting cat,” Dennehy said. “I’ve really only seen him rattled once. He just plays his game. That’s what he liked about him when we recruited him. We joke but he only needs to make one save, the game-winning one, and he made it.”
Collins, Heywood lead by example
Collins continued his hot streak, adding two more points in last night’s win making it now 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) he has scored in just the last two weekends. Collins, who leads all of Hockey East in scoring with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists), is four points better than any other player in the league.
“I’m not focused on that,” Collins said, “it’s all about getting the two points.”
For him, that’s not just a figure of speech or modesty taking over. Collins isn’t just scoring, he’s blocking shots, backchecking hard and doing the “little things” coaches often like to rave about.
“He’s chipping pucks, taking the body, and he wasn’t doing those in the first couple of games,” Dennehy said. “Scoring will come and go, it’s peaks and valleys, but the game you bring to the ice is what you can control. Doing those little things, he’s now one of our best players and the young guys see that and they think if they do it, they’ll score like that too.”
A familar face
Hockey East official Tom Fryer was both on familiar and unfamiliar territory at the same time.
In years past, league protocol was that alumni of league schools could not officiate games which involved their alma matter and Fryer is a Merrimack grad. This year, under new supervisor of officials Dan Schachte, some old rules were tossed out the window and new rules are in place. The alma matter rule was one, which resulted in Fryer skating back on the Merrimack ice, ironically, on homecoming weekend.
Merrimack 4, Northeastern 2
at J. Thom Lawler Arena
Northeastern (2-4-1): 2-0-2–4
Merrimack (4-3-1): 0-2-0–2
First Period: 1. NU Vinny Saponari 1 (Mike McMurty, Robbie Vrolyk), ev, 12:05; 2. NU Mike McMurty 1 (Keivn Roy, Colton Saucermann), ppg, 18:32.
Second Period: 3. MC Shawn Bates 1 (Dan Kolomatis, John Heffernan), ev, 2:51; 4. MC Mike Collins 5 (John Heffernan, Vinny Scotti), ev, 19:32.
Third Period: 5. MC Jordan Heywood 3 (Mike Collins), ev, 16:32; 6. Justin Hussar 1 (Ben Bahe), en, 19:59.
Shots: Merrimack 10-11-12–33; Northeastern 10-10-6–26
Saves: MC Tirronen 8-10-6–24; NU Rawlings 10-9-10–29
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 6; Northeastern 1 for 2
Penalties: Merrimack 3-6; Northeastern 5-10
Faceoffs: 41-34 Merrimack
Attendance: 2,489 (sellout)
Next: Hosts BU on Friday, 7:30