Bushido: The Way of the Warrior (Podcast)

My weekly podcast with Merrimack hockey coach Mark Dennehy

The Beacon

Pat Bradley ’14, Sports Editor
@PatBradleyUSCHO

Dennehy: ULowell is like the Grand Canyon, Bushido, da Costa, Stollery, consistency, and more.

After a difficult first half that saw the Warriors go just 4-9-2, the team has started to bounce back, already with three wins under their belt through January. Of course, 3-4-1 isn’t exactly what the Warriors had hoped to accomplish. Taking a closer look shows that the team is showing positive signs for the remaining five weeks of the regular season and a still to be determined opening round series in the Hockey East playoffs.

After tying #4 Providence at Fenway, defeating #11 Clarkson on the road, and taking quality home wins against #5 Quinnipiac and Massachusetts, the Warriors have earned points in four straight weekends for the first time all season. Consistency is still an issue – Merrimack lost the Friday night game in the weekend series against Clarkson…

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Preview: #17 Merrimack vs #10/12 UMass Lowell

Follow @PatBradleyUSCHO on Twitter for live updates

If UML wins today, they clinch a home ice spot in the Hockey East Tournament

If UML wins today, they clinch a home ice spot in the Hockey East Tournament

We’re minutes away from puck drop here at Lawler as Merrimack is essentially playing for their playoff lives. ULowell comes in red-hot after dropping BC at BC Tuesday night and blanking Merrimack 4-0 Friday night in Lowell.

After playing themselves right back into the national conversation, Merrimack has dropped 3 straight contests: Sunday 2-1 in OT to BC, a 5-2 drubbing at BU Tuesday, and an equally poor 4-0 loss to Lowell Friday night.

Mark Dennehy has made some drastic changes to his lineup for tonight’s game. Freshman Brian Christie and sophomore Josh Myers are healthy scratches today for the Warriors. Christie has played in every game since opening night, and for the majority of the second half has centered the first line with Mike Collins and Quinn Gould (since Gould returned from a shoulder injury). Friday, Christie was dropped to the fourth line.

In their stead, freshman Ben Bahe moves onto the fourth line right wing, and senior John Heffernan, typically a wing, is centering the fourth line. Senior Brandon Brodhag, who hasn’t played since December 29th in the Vermount Tournament against Princeton, is active tonight on the second line.

Sophomore Rasmus Tirronen is also in net tonight for the Warriors. Tirronen replaced usual starter Sam Marotta in the second period Tuesday night at BU after Marotta gave up 3 first period goals, but Tirronen promptly gave up 2 goals of his own in the period before playing a scoreless third. Marotta returned to the net Friday in Lowell, giving up 2 quick goals midway through the third period. The game was scoreless before that.

Merrimack has scored 3 goals in their last 3 games.

In terms of playoff seeding, here’s what it looks like for the Warriors:

The team currently has 27 points, 4 out of first place with 3 to play including today’s game. Should they win, they stand 1 point out of a home ice spot for the Hockey East tournament, and 2 points out of first overall. Next weekend they take on unranked UMass in a home and home series, the final regular season game coming in Amherst Saturday.

As for the PWR, they are in 30th place, 14 spots out of an at-large bid. Should they win, they’ll move up to 26th and if they win their final 3 they’ll stand roughly in 21st. This means they’d at the VERY least have to get out of the quarterfinals in the HE Tourney, and if they lose another game they’d probably need to make it to the HE Finals to even have a shot.

Of course, should they win the tournament, they’d receive an automatic bid. I may be the only person left outside of their locker room who believes they can do it, but they’ll go as far as their goaltending takes them, despite their offesne. When Marotta is on fire, this team can do anything. One goal can be enough, a two goal lead might as well be 10. There’s a lot of proud players in that locker room that don’t want to go out this way. We’ll see if they get what they came for.

Merrimack/BC Preview: 1-on-1 with Jordan Heywood

Battle For First

 

Tonight at J. Thom Lawler Arena, the no. 19 Merrimack Warriors take on the no. 4 Boston College Eagles in a battle for sole possession of first place in the Hockey East standings. After a lackluster 6-7-3 first half, including a 4-4-3 record in Hockey East, Merrimack sat in just 6th place heading into the Christmas break. The first half let down could be summed up in one game – a 4-3 loss at Boston College on November 16th.

That Friday night, the Warriors jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the second period on the then no.1 ranked Eagles after a scoreless first. All three Warrior goals came in a 4:36 span. Understandably excited, the young Merrimack squad seemingly lost focus following those dominant four and a half minutes.

“It was like the first two rows at a Justin Bieber concert,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy.

“The giddiness of our team being up three-nothing on the number one team in the country was palpable. You’ve got to be laser focused at the point, and I knew there was a lot of hockey left to be played.”

Merrimack would end up giving up that lead just as quickly as they had earned, as the Eagles scored 3 goals of their own in a five minute stretch that followed, capped off by an early 3rd period goal that would put the Eagles ahead for good.

”It was a learning experience,” explains Dennehy. “We can’t take much from it now, but it was a precursor to where we are today and showed that we can play with the best teams in the country.”

Since the beginning of their second half campaign on December 29th, the Warriors have seemingly turned the tables around. Fresh off defeats of Hockey East foes UNH and UMass Lowell, both ranked nationally, the Warriors find themselves in the midst of a 7-2-1 stretch that has them back in the national conversation, in 2nd place in their conference, and 20th in the Pairwise Rankings that are taken under heavy consideration when determining the 16 teams that will make the NCAA tournament.

I saw down with Merrimack captain and blue-liner Jordan Heywood to talk about tonight’s battle for first place.

PB: Was your preparation any different this week heading into such a huge match-up?

JH: We’re not really focused on who we’re playing, although it obviously adds to the excitement of the game. There’s big implications, but we try to stay focused on us. We feel that if we prepare properly, we work hard, and do the little things right, that’ll give us the best chance to win and we have the ability to beat every team in the country.

What do you take from the 4-3 loss to this team back in November?

You just can’t get too high with the highs and low with the lows. I think we obviously got too high on the bench, we were pretty excited. But they’re a team who has the ability to score in large volumes pretty quickly. I don’t expect there to be that drastic shift of momentum this time. But, you never know. If it happens you just have to be prepared to go out there the next shift and work even harder.

How do you contain “Johnny Hockey” – BC’s star sophomore and Team USA hero Johnny Gaudreau?

Obviously you have a little more focus at times when he’s on the ice because he’s a tremendous player, but, again, we’re not focusing on what they’re doing or what their players are doing. We just feel that if we stick to our focus and stick to our game plan those little things will take care of themselves.

Is it intimidating squaring up with BC, or is it an exciting challenge?

Yeah, I don’t feel intimidated playing them. It’s pretty easy for teams to be intimidated, though. I remember freshman year, the first game [against BC], feeling kind of intimidated, but you realize pretty quickly that they sweat and they bleed just like you do.

If I had told you 6 weeks ago you’d be playing BC at home for first place on February 15th, would you have believed me?

I think so, yeah.  Earlier in the year we saw flashes of how good our team can be, but we also saw flashes of how bad we can be. We were pretty inconsistent at times. But just seeing how young our team was and how well we’ve grown…you don’t want to be overconfident in yourself, but from pretty early in the year I believed we had a pretty good team. We have a lot of good players. It was just kind of part of the process to wait that out and just make sure we’re doing the little things right, so that when it comes to games like tonight, we’re ready.

Was there ever a point where you thought ‘okay, maybe this is a lost season’? Did anyone ever give up?

No, if anyone had given up we wouldn’t be at the point we’re at now. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t frustration. It’s really frustrating, a lot of times, because it’s just saying the same things over and over, but a lot of it is just a process. It takes time for players to mature and develop into the player that the team needs them to be. It’s just coming to the rink every day with the idea that you have to work hard. The teams who really do that over the course of the season are the ones who will be there at the end.

93% of voters in my recent poll say this team can get out of the first round of the Hockey East tournament, while 50% believe you can make the Hockey East Finals and the NCAA Tournament. How far can this team go?

The way that college hockey works is that the team who is playing the best at the right time can go the whole way. You don’t have that 7 game series format. Once you get past the first round it’s just one game, and if you can put together one game then you can beat anyone. You start to build some confidence and anything can happen. You look at BC last year, and they won 19 in a row to end the season when no one, at the beginning, really thought they were going to be that good. I think this team could do that too, I definitely believe that. It’s all about having your players play well at the right time.

Do you feel like you’ve hit that stride the last few games?

I think so. I think it’s just guarding the team against feeling like we’ve arrived at anything, because we haven’t. Sure we’re playing for 1st place, but Providence is a point behind us, UNH is a point behind us. BU is 3 points behind us. You drop two games and suddenly you’re down in fourth or fifth place. No one’s running away with it and I don’t think anyone is going to run away with it. For us every game is against a top 6 or 7 team. Every game is big.

How big are the fans, who still believe in you even after a rocky first half? How big of a boost is it when they’re packed in Lawler?

It’s a huge boost. The first thing every player does when they skate out onto the ice is look down to the fan section to see what the turnout is. When you see that fan section full it definitely gives you a jump in your step. Hearing them chanting, cheering and having fun…it’s a small rink and gets pretty loud in there quickly. It makes a huge difference. We really appreciate it when you guys come out.

 

 

So now it’s your turn: who wins tonight’s Battle for First, Merrimack or BC? Vote below!

The Kids Are Alright

A Merrimack College Hockey second-half preview

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After two seasons of unprecedented Division 1 success for the Merrimack College men’s hockey team, including a 2010-2011 campaign which saw the Warriors win a school record 25 games and earn a birth to their first ever NCAA Tournament, the team is off to a bit of a rocky start. Through the first half of the season, the team has managed only a 6-7-3 overall record, including an unimpressive 4-4-1 Hockey East record, good for only 6th place in the conference.

With a roster consisting of 16 underclassmen (including 7 freshmen) and only 4 seniors, consistency has been the biggest issue for Mark Dennehy’s squad. While many critics have written off the rest of this season for Merrimack hockey and praised the future of this young, deep squad, there may be more to look forward to in the second half than anyone outside the locker room believes. Here are my top 5 reasons to look for second-half success from Merrimack.

The Young and the Restless

Okay, technically I shouldn’t say “young” (no one on the team is younger than 20), but rather “inexperienced” as Dennehy likes to remind us.  Four freshmen (Christie, Hussar, Scotti, Gustafsson) and seven sophomores (Toomey, Jardine, Singleton, Myers, Kolomatis, Mansfield and Tirronen) play regularly, while 3 other freshmen (Bahe, Robertson, Cronin) have seen limited ice time as well. After 16 games and 3 months practicing together, Merrimack critics and supporters have high hopes of this team meshing together and finding its identity in the second half.

Dennehy seems to be confident they will. When asked about the inexperience of his roster, he nonchalantly replied, “when their number gets called and they’re in the lineup, they’re in the lineup. Freshman, sophomore, junior…I think most of our guys have a pretty good understanding of how we play.”

Home Sweet Home

Although Merrimack has only managed a 3-3-3 record at home this season, Lawler Arena is one of the toughest places for any opponent to play, and somewhere the Warriors typically dominate. The win/loss results haven’t been exactly what the doctor ordered, but after this weekend’s Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup to kick off the second half, Merrimack plays just as many home games as it does away. Better news? Five of those road games are against lackluster competition, with a weekend series at Maine, and games against Vermont, UMass, and Lowell.

Big Game in Big Games

One of the downfalls of an inexperienced team is “playing down” to opponents you should probably beat. This downfall turns into a perk, however, when playing a high-profile juggernaut. BC, anyone?

This Merrimack team absolutely plays up to its biggest opponents and enjoys making statements. The Warriors started this season by beating then-ranked #5 Union (now 13) on the road, later swept then #15 Northeastern in a home-and-home weekend series, lost a close battle to then #11 ranked BU (now #6), then went into the defending national champions’ house and took a 3-0 lead before eventually losing 4-3 to no. 1 ranked Boston College.

The Warriors will have plenty of chances to make statements in their final 20 games, as they take on #13 Union, #6 BU twice, #2 UNH three times, and #1 BC twice more at Lawler. In addition to their games against these ranked teams, they have 10 televised games on their slate (including 5 nationally televised broadcasts) and games against budding rival Providence and long-time school rival UMass Lowell.

Finally, after this weekend’s tournament in Vermont, every Merrimack game remaining is a Hockey East match-up and earns them points towards the postseason.

Are we really concerned about motivation for this team?

Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending

During the preseason, Dennehy decided nothing would be given to his team, including the title of “starting goaltender”. Therefore, he implemented a platoon between junior Sam Marotta and sophomore Rasmus Tirronen. When asked in early October about who would be the starter, Dennehy told us he wanted them both to “fight for the job” in order to “stay fresh and competitive.” I’ll be the first to admit I questioned his strategy, especially after watching Tirronen simply look over-matched in his first collegiate action against Northeastern on October 10th. However, after sticking religiously to his platoon, the strategy is not only working out, it’s one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Both goaltenders are sharp, rested and ready to play when called upon. They have nearly identical .914% (Tirronen) and .913% (Marotta) save percentages, and while neither have winning percentages above .500%, they’re both playing phenomenally. Think of Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez circa 2010 –  he won the Cy Young Award with just a 13-12 record on a losing team, but was clearly the most dominant pitcher out there. That’s the type of season Marotta and Tirronen are having for Merrimack, and as long as that play continues, good things will come.

Nothing for Granted

In what was described solely as a “team decision,” senior assistant captain Kyle Bigos was stripped of his A in early December. In a lackluster start to the season, Bigos leads the team in PIM, while coach Dennehy has noted at times he “needs to play smarter.” The move would seemingly be to light a fire under the team and remind them that nothing is given and everything is earned. Although Kyle is their banging, bruising, senior blue-liner, his sloppy play and decision making hasn’t been exemplary of an assistant captain and needed to be removed. On a team full of youth and inexperience, setting the tone is one of the most important things Dennehy can do to improve his team. Hopefully, this serves as a reminder: If Kyle can lose his A, you can lose your spot, too. Keep playing, and keep playing hard. That’s what Warrior Hockey is all about, right?

 

The Verdict: This will be a fun second-half for Merrimack.

Mark Dennehy liked the direction his team was headed after wrapping up their first half a few weeks ago.

“What I like about how we play? We’ve been attacking in the 3rd. We’re on the balls of our feet, we’re taking ice, we’re shrinking the rink…those are all positives for us. Goals are like results – you can’t control them, as much as we’d like to. But I like our effort and I like our attitude over the last 5 or 6 games.

Life is not instant gratification – you don’t just get rewarded for hard work right away and that’s what we have to know. You’ve got to put [our] efforts together on a consistent basis and then you’ll be rewarded.”

If the season ended today, they’d have to win two games against Boston University. However, They’re only in 6th place in Hockey East. Three points separate 4th through 7th place in the conference as well, so a home playoff series is definitely up for grabs and they could easily wind up with a favorable playoff matchup at home for the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.

If you’re a Merrimack fan, be sure to keep all extremities inside the vehicle at all times, and stay strapped in. We’re in for an exhilarating roller-coaster ride to March.

Why Kids Need TV

This is what happens when a 90s kid writes a paper at 3 am about the “dangers” of television

Oh, you think TV hurts kids? Please, tell me more about how wrong you are

Oh, you think TV hurts kids? Please, tell me more about how wrong you are

In a generation where technology reigns king and holds the human race hostage, you’d think one of the biggest technology mediums out there – television – would be perceived as a good thing. Apparently though, the mass

communication invention that changed family room blue prints forever is considered harmful for children. I have a 14-month-old cousin who knows how to use her mother’s iPhone better than I (an Android customer) do, and everyone considers her to be one of the smartest babies around. Why? Because she’s been exposed to technology and can do things at barely a year old that my grandfather, now 88, couldn’t figure out if his life depended on it. Sure, technology conceivably makes you lazy, but harmful? It just doesn’t make sense. What makes less sense, though, is what a life without TV would mean to kids today. During my freshman year of college, I met a friend who had grown up without TV. One night when parting ways after dinner, I said “TTFN! Ta ta for now!” and she looked at me like I had four heads and was speaking a foreign language. Maybe it’s just me, but if you didn’t know I was quoting Tigger there, well, you’re doing it wrong. And by “it” I mean “life.”

In his article On Media Violence, W. James Potter (1999) attempts to argue that television is, in fact, harmful to children. He cites several symptoms/outcomes/results of television exposure as the basis for his argument, mainly fear, desensitization, aggression, and identification. Well, Mr. Potter, you’re wrong. Here’s why:

This guy's just a deutsch

This guy’s just a deutsch

On aggression and desensitization, Potter writes “The more aggressive the person is, the more influence viewing of violence will have on that person’s subsequent aggressive behavior” (32) …does he see what he’s saying here? If you’re a naturally angry, aggressive person, watching something with anger or aggression is more likely to affect you. Someone please call NASA! It appears we have uncovered long lost truths of rocket science! Seriously, he’s contradicting himself here – it’s your personality that determines your aggressiveness, not what you watch on TV. Just because most women (and admittedly myself, too) will cry when they watch The Notebook every weekend on ABC Family because they’re (we’re?) hopelessly romantic, doesn’t mean that every disturbed little boy who watches Jersey Shore will grow up and punch Snooki in the face. Correlation does not imply causation, Mr. Potter.

A recent (2011) finding makes a similar argument to Potter’s, but instead aims to attack the cognitive harm television does to kids. In an experiment conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Lillard and Peterson found that watching just 9 minutes of the popular cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants caused “significant” strain on “the ability to think, plan, and focus”  in pre-schoolers so that “immediately afterwards, a child isn’t operating at full capacity.” This was also due in part to “too many oddities and unexpected twists” in the show.

This is why I have a problem with science – its narrow-mindedness blinds it from the truth. In their experiment, the other pre-schoolers that did not watch those 9 minutes of SpongeBob either colored for 9 minutes or watched a slower, quieter, more educational children’s cartoon, Caillou.

Now there’s no way these researchers could understand this, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but, SpongeBob is not harming the prefrontal cortex. Clearly they did not watch SpongeBob as a kid because anyone who did would know one thing: SpongeBob is and was totally freakin’ awesome.

Honestly, when you heard,

 “Are ya ready kids?”

“AYE AYE, CAPTAIN!”

“Ohhhhhh,”

Totally. Freakin. Awesome.

Totally. Freakin. Awesome.

you lost your flipping mind. It didn’t matter what you were doing – as soon as SpongeBob came on you stopped and watched. If you didn’t, you were that kid in school the next day who didn’t know what had happened. Watching SpongeBob wasn’t optional, and it was sometimes the best part of your day. The little yellow man who lives in a pineapple under the sea isn’t turning your kids into mush, it’s making them hyper. Try talking to a kid who just came back from recess or just finished watching their favorite TV show. It’s pointless. They’re kids who get overly excited over simple things. It doesn’t mean TV is bad, it means they’re kids. Can we move on?

Potter later discusses the issue of children developing fears from watching violent television programming. He argues that “exposure to violence in the media can lead to fear effects” which are “an emotional reaction [comprised] of anxiety and stress” (35). I can’t say I disagree with what Potter has to say here. Actually, I endorse it. When I was five, I begged my parents for months to let me watch Jurassic Park because I was obsessed with dinosaurs. For the majority of those months, they said no, knowing the movie would be a bit too old for me. Finally, after endless nagging, they gave in and allowed me to watch it. It scared the living hell out of me, so much so that I had terrible nightmares of being chased and eaten by dinosaurs. The next day, 5-year-old Pat gave the VHS back to my parents and asked them to hide it somewhere I would never find it so I couldn’t watch it anymore. I still have those nightmares to this day, fifteen years later. I also know that Velociraptors can open door handles and that if I ever encounter a wild Tyrannosaurus Rex I should stay still in hopes he can’t see me because running will just get me eaten. TV is harmful? More like life-saving.

W. James Potter is further concerned that “characters who are…perceived as similar to the viewer evoke viewer

True love

True love

empathy” so much so that when a character experiences pain or trauma, so too will the viewer. Once again, I agree with Potter’s assessment. When Cory and Topanga broke up, I felt the same agony that Cory did. I also realized at a young age that someday I was going to find a girl I absolutely could not live without and would love with all my heart and, when that day came, to never give up, never give in, and never, ever let her go. I identified with Cory Matthews as a kid and, now, at 20, want nothing more than to find the love of my life. Is that really that bad?

In The Dynamics of Mass Communication, Dominick explains that, simply, “all this means that under certain conditions TV will be an influential force in shaping what children think about certain topics”(434). Well, if I were a kid today, based on what I saw on TV over the last few months, I would assume that politicians are evil, liars, and solely out to make one another look bad and not help me. Guess what? I wouldn’t be wrong.

TV isn’t the enemy here.

Growing up, my absolute favorite TV show was Pokémon, a TV series based off the popular video game franchise. If you’ve never heard of Pokémon before, imagine going to the zoo while tripping acid, then trying to catch the zoo animals in a little ball, and finally forcing the animals to fight each other to the point of unconsciousness for money and fame, and you have Pokémon. Was it violent? Yes. Is my name Michael Vick? No. Do you see a problem here? Yeah, me neither.

 Saying television harms children is like saying wearing flip flops in the winter causes cancer. Is there research out there that supports the claim? Yup. Does it make the claim any less asinine? Not at all. Watching Pokemon and other programs on television didn’t mean I was going to grow up to be some psychotic serial killer, it meant I was a kid. If anyone can prove otherwise, I’ll be happy to listen.

But, until that point, TTFN: Ta ta for now.