NORTH ANDOVER — Coach Mark Dennehy has done wonders for the Merrimack hockey program, taking it from Hockey East laughingstock about a decade ago to a NCAA tournament berth in 2010-11 and the No. 1 ranking in the country at one point the next year.
But the program — although not nearly as bad it was 10 years ago — hasn’t played well in recent history.
UMass Lowell won 4-0 over the Warriors here at Lawler Rink last night. Merrimack sits in the cellar of Hockey East with a conference record of 2-9-2. The Warriors also are just 8-22-4 in their past 34 contests.
The atmosphere here at Lawler Rink is tremendous. The student section is rowdy, the band plays enthusiastically and the attendance has been strong. If you arrive at a game only 10 minutes before puck drop, be prepared to park on the other side of campus.
But don’t expect this rink to be rocking if Merrimack continues to lose, especially with more clunkers like last night. Several fans scooted out before the third period began.
Meanwhile, Dennehy defended his team’s play when he simply should have admitted that the Warriors must do a better job.
“It’s a game of inches,” Dennehy said. “And they (the River Hawks) were on the right side of those inches four times.”
Want more of Dennehy defending his team’s play?
“I honestly thought we were the better team for large stretches of tonight’s game,” Dennehy said. “They scored four goals. We didn’t. But I thought we were the better team for large stretches. We spent a lot of time in their zone, which is what we want to do.”
Merrimack’s big issue has been a lack of scoring. Beyond Mike Collins, Brian Christie and Chris LeBlanc, nobody else on the team has 10 or more points this season.