The Mack Report

My Take: Lowell 3, Merrimack 1

MC's Shawn Bates#9 vs UML goalie Connor Hellebuyck#30 Final UML5 MC1 Photo-Walter Rossini 3-3-13 7025

Photo by Walter Rossini

NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College dropped a 3-1 decision to Lowell on Sunday evening at Lawler Arena in North Andover. The Warriors, 0-4-1 in their last five games, will wrap up the regular season next weekend with a home-and-home series with UMass. The Warriors can still host a Hockey East quarterfinal series, although the possibility of that seems less likely after this weekend. Merrimack is three points out of a home-ice spot with two games (4 points) left to play.

Hitting the snooze: Merrimack seemed to sleepwalk through the first 30 or 35 minutes of the game. By the time the Warriors really got involved, the River Hawks already held a 3-0 lead.

Lowell’s first goal was the product of a man down the wall throwing a puck on net and Josh Holmstrom sneaking out from behind Rasmus Tirronen and deflecting the shot through the five hole. A few minutes later, Holmstrom stood at the top of the crease and had the time and space to tip a Scott Wilson shot and then whack away at the loose puck in front before putting it past Tirronen.

Pick your poison: Scoring has been the obviously issue for the Warriors, as they’ve potted just six goals in their last five games (0-4-1) since beating Boston College in overtime more than two weeks ago. But perhaps a larger struggle has again been Merrimack’s play on the defensive zone. Blaming just the defensemen isn’t fair. All around, Merrimack’s team defense, especially in their own end, has been lackluster at best the past two weeks.

Lineup changes: Interesting lineup changes for the Warriors on Sunday, with Rasmus Tirronen starting in goal for the first time since Jan. 11 and Brandon Brodhag was in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 29. Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy declined to comment on the changes postgame. The one thing I found interesting about the changes was that two seniors were inserted into the lineup. To me, that’s sending the message that it’s “their” team and they were given a shot to try to steer the ship around. As for the change in goal, it could be as simple as the Warriors’ schedule, having played four games in eight nights. Or, it could be that the coaching staff was unhappy with the effort level of late, and didn’t want to “sacrifice,” for lack of a better term, Marotta, who has probably been Merrimack’s best player since January.

When asked if he could elaborate on the lineup changes postgame, Dennehy played it close to the vest, saying, “No. You have to ask the question, but no.”

Tough to find a hole: Lowell defends incredibly well. I noticed this last week against BU as well, but when the River Hawks established the lead, they sat back in their 1-2-2 neutral-zone set and just didn’t allow Merrimack any room to move the puck. When the Warriors were able to establish possession in the zone, they packed in around Connor Hellebuyck, blocking 20 shots as a team. Oddly enough, in the third, it seemed that Lowell went away from the 1-2-2 for a bit, and the Warriors were able to more freely move the puck up ice.