From this side of the Merrimack River, there are two divergent ways of looking at what has transpired on the other side of the river.
One is angst and, what the heck, some good old-fashioned jealousy.
And the second way is, well, with pride and hope.
Merrimack College hockey coach Mark Dennehy has chosen the second way while looking on at what has transpired with his school’s Hockey East rival, UMass Lowell, this winter and, in particularly, the last few weeks.
UMass Lowell not only won the Hockey East regular season title for the first time, by winning on the final day of the season, but they capped that with a Hockey East Tournament championship, beating Boston University, 1-0, last Saturday night.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with UMass Lowell and the job Norm Bazin has done,” said Dennehy, who led Merrimack to only its second NCAA Div. 1 tourney berth two seasons ago.
“The word that sticks out for me is ‘thorough,’ ” said Dennehy, from his office on the North Andover campus. “It wasn’t ‘thorough’ in one area. It was all areas. They were thorough in all three zones (offense, defense and goaltending), particularly on defense. They just don’t give you a lot. Their power play was strong. Their penalty kill was strong.”
UMass Lowell has one of the country’s hottest goalies in freshman Connor Hellebuyck, who basically unseated one of the best goalies in the country last year in Riverhawks junior Doug Carr. Hellebuyck went 18-2-0 as a starter, which included five shutouts.
Dennehy knows the importance of goaltending, with Joe Cannata covering the nets at Merrimack for four years and arguably one of the three best college goalies a year ago.
“As I’ve said many, many times before, it all starts at goaltender,” said Dennehy.