Merrimack finally solves BU penalty kill

When Merrimack’s Mike Collins scored at 1:15 of the first period in Saturday night’s game against Boston University, the Warriors did something that no team had done in nearly three weeks – score a power play goal against BU.

BU had killed 32 consecutive penalties entering Saturday’s game, including 10 against the Warriors on Friday night. Merrimack finally solved the Terriers penalty kill in the opening seconds and then, before the period was out notched another goal on the man advantage.

Suddenly, the potent PK didn’t look all that great.

Giving credit where credit is due, Merrimack solved a puzzle few teams have this season. In fact, only two other teams have scored with the man advantage against BU, which entered Saturday leading the nation in penalty kill percentage.

So what was head coach Mark Dennehy’s formula to finally cracking the Terriers PK?

“When they pressure you like that, the key is to keep the puck moving,” said Dennehy, whose club is a modest 15.9 percent on the power play this season. “You have to have a lot of poise because you know somebody’s coming.”

Dennehy said in addition to quick puck movement, BU’s pressure on the PK translates to the power play unit needing to get the Terriers out of position.

“We’ve worked with a lot on being where they need to be to spread the zone,” Dennehy said. “If [BU is] going to attack us there, there should be a few seems and we can get it to the net.”

Dennehy also went out of the way to say that the main focus of the power play isn’t always to score. In Friday’s game, the 10 opportunities, while none were cashed in, still helped in earning the Warriors a 1-1 tie.

“At the end of the day, even a good power play is going to fail 80 percent of the time,” Dennehy said. “You’re looking for momentum switches and you’re looking for opportunities and [on Friday] we had plenty of chances. We may not have scored, but our power play moved it around as well as it had in a while.”

By the way, Merrimack itself is pretty good at killing penalties. BU was a collective 0-for-13 on the weekend on the power play. That boosted Merrimack to 45-for-48 killing penalties on the season. The 93.8 percent efficiency – yeah, that’s good for the best penalty kill in the country, supplanting none other than Boston University.

So now that Mark Dennehy’s team has figured out how to score on the man advantage against the Terriers, it’s now up to every other team in the country to figure out how to score on the power play against the Warriors.

I was thinking…

Dave may be handling the bulk of the writing this week, but that hasn’t kept my mind from pondering a few things about Hockey East. So while I’m here, I might as well share them with you:

• When Gustav Nyquist announced last April he would be returning to Maine, I thought for sure he’d be the hands down favorite to win the Hobey Baker this year. That was until I began looking at some stats this week and noticed that Miami’s Carter Camper already has 28 points. Seriously? 28 points in just 12 games. How can anyone touch that? Nyquist still has decent numbers (four goals and 15 points in 10 games). But seriously, will anyone even threaten Camper for the national scoring title this year? The kid keeps this pace up and we could be talking Paul Kariya-like numbers.

• Is there anyone out there who doesn’t feel a tad sorry for Massachusetts right now? It’s tough enough that the Minutemen are halfway through November without a win. But last Saturday, after a no-show loss the night before, UMass finally was in position to win – and a heck of a win it would have been. The Minutemen scored with 62 seconds left in regulation to take a 3-2 lead against the New Hampshire, only to have the Wildcats respond 20 seconds later with an extra attacker goal to tie the game. I’m sure many of you out there figured it would be another zero point weekend for UMass so any points seem significant. But when you’re that close to your first win, a tie just doesn’t feel good.

• Northeastern is another of the down-on-its-luck teams and last weekend did little to improve that. Playing at Maine, a place that has been pretty much a living hell over the years for NU, the Huskies led late into the second period on Friday night and then carried a lead into the third on Saturday. Both nights, though, Maine exploded in the third and earned 4-2 wins. Couple that with three straight home losses against Atlantic Hockey clubs the weeks prior – two of which saw NU blowing either late-second period or third period leads – and you have to wonder if the Huskies straight out have problems closing out games.