By Mike McMahon
---- — POTSDAM, N.Y. – Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy knew at the beginning of the season that goaltender would be a position of strength for the Warriors.
But perhaps not even he could imagine just how strong the position would prove to be.
Last night was another feather in Rasmus Tirronen’s cap, as the junior turned aside all 32 shots he faced to backstop the Warriors to a 4-0 win over No. 11-ranked Clarkson University at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, New York.
“It just seemed like all of the pucks were hitting me tonight,” said Tirronen. “I kind of learned from (Friday). They were good on screening on the power play, so I was leaning on either side, trying to see, and it all worked tonight. It was nice to have a lead, but it shouldn’t matter in our position. We should just keep making the next save and hopefully in the net its enough.”
Last night it was more than enough.
Tirronen now sports a 1.82 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, ranking second and fourth in Hockey East in each of those categories.
“We did a good job of blocking shots,” Tirronen said. “Even when the puck came through and I made the save if there was a rebound they weren’t able to get at it and that’s because our D played so well today.”
Clayton Jardine put the Warriors on the board first, taking a feed from Ben Bahe and firing a shot from the left circle that beat Greg Lewis over the right shoulder at 11:17 of the first period.
After a five-minute major was called on Clarkson’s A.J. Fossen for facemasking with 16 seconds left in the first period — it also was a game misconduct — the Warriors capitalized early in the second. Quinn Gould shoveled in a Mike Collins’ rebound to make it 2-0 Warriors and Collins found the back of the net from the top of circle 1:38 later to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead.
“We scored goals, and that’s makes the job easier,” Dennehy said. “It makes the bus ride (last night) a little shorter, it makes the day off (today) a little longer. You play this game to succeed and we did some really good things tonight. The second period was probably our best of the game.”
A weekend full of chippy hockey boiled over midway through the third period. After a Tirronen made a save with about 11 minutes left, a free for all broke out on his left side that spilled into the corner. Clarkson’s Alex Boak was assessed the Golden Knights’ second facemasking penalty of the night for ripping Collins’ helmet off. He was also given a game disqualification, meaning he’ll be suspended for Clarkson’s game next weekend against Yale. In all, the Golden Knights were assessed 42 penalty minutes; Merrimack was tagged with 24.
“I don’t like how we got caught up with that garbage in the third,” Dennehy said. “It didn’t benefit us. We wanted that time to tick off, so we need to be smarter.”
The Warriors will travel to Connecticut next week to kickoff a home-and-home series with defending national runner-up, Quinnipiac. The teams will play at Lawler Rink Saturday.
“We’re going to need to play better than (last night),” Dennehy said.
Merrimack 4, No. 11 Clarkson 0
at Cheel Arena, Clarkson
Merrimack College (5-10-3): 1-2-1–4
Clarkson University (13-7-3): 0-0-0–0
First Period: 1. MC Clayton Jardine 2 (Ben Bahe, Mike Collins), ev, 11:17.
Second Period: 2. MC Quinn Gould 5 (Mike Collins, Jordan Heywood), pp, 2:16; 3. MC Mike Collins 5 (Vinny Scotti, Brendan Ellis), pp, 3:54.
Third Period: 4. MC Rhett Bly 1 (unassisted), en, 18:21.
Shots: Clarkson 11-10-13–32; Merrimack 9-13-2–24
Saves: CU Lewis 20; MC Tirronen 32
Power Play: Clarkson 0 for 8; Merrimack 2 for 6
Penalties: Clarkson 10-42 ; Merrimack 12-24
Next: at Quinnipiac Friday, 7