LOWELL — Many had this portion of Merrimack College’s schedule — four games in seven days — circled on the calendar as the make-or-break point in the season for the Warriors.
So far, things haven’t gone as planned.
After last night’s 4-0 setback against UMass Lowell — the River Hawks scored two empty-net goals — the Warriors will limp into tomorrow’s rematch losers of three straight games, scoring a combined three goals.
“At the beginning of the game, I thought that the team that executed their game plan the longest would win the game,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “They played their game longer than we played our game.”
The teams played two scoreless periods before the River Hawks finally broke the ice 5:50 into the third period when defenseman Jake Suter pinched up the right-wing wall and dished the puck to Adam Chapie in the slot, who fired off a quick shot that beat Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta glove side.
Lowell’s Derek Arnold added some insurance 2:40 later.
The Warriors outshot the River Hawks, 31-25, but couldn’t beat Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The freshman, who was named Hockey East’s Player of the Month on Thursday, recorded his fourth shutout of the season.
“It was a team shutout,” he said. “Team played great.”
Usually a generic, ho-hum response from the goaltender couldn’t be more truthful.
The River Hawks, much like the Warriors, block shots, pack things in and check tight, and don’t allow many grade-A opportunities.
“Both goals were bang-bang plays,” Dennehy said. “We had our chances too. Whoever scores first has a pretty good chance of winning. Both teams play good defense.”
After Lowell’s second goal, Dennehy had center Brian Christie call a timeout at center ice.
In an interview with radio analyst Mike Machnik after the game, Dennehy said that he called the timeout for the purpose of asking for a review, but the officials denied the request.