By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College’s rink, already one of the smallest in college hockey, had to feel as if it were shrunk even more yesterday as the Warriors and Colgate skated to a 1-1 matinee tie.
Both known for their aggressiveness, Merrimack and Colgate clogged up the neutral zone and sent bodies flying. The game was filled with physicality, but so little room on the ice lends itself to limited space for flashy playmaking and fluid speed to take over.
In a rink like Merrimack’s, with tight corners and the illusion that fans are right on top of the action, it must have felt as if the players were playing in a shoebox.
Merrimack’s lone goal, a first-period tally by Mike Collins (his 7th of the season) was the product of a Brendan Ellis point shot in which Colgate rookie goaltender Spencer Finney made the initial save, before Collins swept the rebound past his right pad.
The only goal Merrimack netminder Rasmus Tirronen allowed came after Brendan Corcoran had his point shot blocked. It deflected right on the stick of Joe Wilson, who had an open net.
“That’s one of those games I would have hated to play in,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy joked. “I’d have no place to hide. There were bodies flying, that was just two hard-fought teams. Two aggressive-minded teams shrinking the rink, even in the middle of the ice.”
For the Warriors, it was the third game in a row in which they’ve let an early lead escape.
Colgate, who entered the game 0-5 when trailing after the first period, was able to earn its first point when down after one.
Two weeks ago against UConn, Merrimack took an early 1-0 lead before falling 3-1.
Against Boston College last Friday, the Warriors led 3-0 before BC came storming back for a 4-3 win and then last night, the Warriors again let a 1-0 lead slip away.
“I think sometimes we’re easily satisfied,” Dennehy said.
“Whether it’s up 3-0 at Boston College and there’s some smiles, and we have a lot of guys who haven’t been in that position before. If they had, it was in juniors and they were so much better than the other team they would just cruise to victory. Nothing is ever secure at the Division 1 college hockey level. That’s one thing we need to work on, that killer instinct.”
Dennehy has been open in the past, especially after the loss to UConn, with the belief that his team’s struggles often stem from losing battles and being outworked.
That wasn’t necessarily the problem against Colgate — the Warriors blocked 15 shots and out-attempted the Raiders 50-43 while outshooting them 24-22.
It was Colgate’s ability to match the often overwhelming work rate of the Warriors at Lawler Arena.
Merrimack has lost just 12 times in their last 52 home games.
Penalty kills shine
Both teams saw their penalty kill units go perfect on the night, with the Raiders killing off five chances, including a five-minute major, and the Warriors killing four.
When asked postgame what he saw on video that he wanted to take away from Merrimack’s power-play, Colgate head coach Don Vaughn said, “The shot from the top for sure. They’re effective with it, so we spent a lot of times this week making sure we were willing to get in front of pucks and plug up shooting lanes and we did a pretty good job of that.”
Merrimack’s penalty kill was under pressure in the overtime after Kyle Bigos was whistled for tripping and the Warriors needed to kill the final 1:30 of OT.
“Both teams probably will spend some extra time on the power-play this week,” coach Mark Dennehy said. “But you know what? I would prefer to tip my cap to both penalty kills and the jobs they did and the adjustments they made.”
Merrimack 1, Colgate 1
at Lawler Arena
Merrimack (4-6-2): 1-0-0-0–1
Colgate (6-6-2): 0-1-0-0–1
First Period: 1. MC Mike Collins 7 (Brendan Ellis, Dan Kolomatis), ev, 7:19.
Second Period: 2. CG Joe Wilson 2 (Brendan Corcoran), ev, 4:51.
Shots: Merrimack 11-5-7-1–24; Colgate 3-9-7-3–22
Saves: MC Tirronen 3-8-7-3–21; CG Finney 10-5-7-1–23
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 5; Colgate 0 for 4
Penalties: Merrimack 4-8; Colgate 6-23
Attendance: 2,489 (sellout)
Next: Host Providence Friday, 7 p.m.