Q&A with Merrimack Coach Mark Dennehy
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
CHN's Mike McMahon spoke with Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy earlier this season. The Warriors already have six wins, double last year's total.
McMahon: What's been the biggest difference between this year, and your first two seasons?
Dennehy: Well, two things, first goal scoring. We have the ability, although it doesn't get any easier with the teams we have coming up, to score goals. Secondly, I think we've got 20 some odd guys in our locker room how that haven't lost 100 hockey games. Late in the game, when it's on the the line, they believe we are going to win. That travels around a locker room and around a bench. The kids that were here when I took over, the majority of them were wonderful young men, great leaders, I wish I coached them longer than I did. But, all of those losses wear on you, and your psyche. We've got some fresh faces and attitudes. All that hard work those guys put in before is starting to pay off for the guys here now.
McMahon: Are you surprised by the start?
Dennehy: It's a lot better than any team has done here in a while. But, we go into every game feeling like we have an opportunity to win. There were moments that we needed to make a play, either a save, blocked shot, or a goal, and we've made them. ... It's those kind of timely plays that we weren't getting in the past, and timing is everything. I can't say I'm surprised because like I said, every game we have played this year, we felt we had a chance to win. It's refreshing, to say the least.
McMahon: You have kept opponents' forwards close to the wall, forcing them to take their shots from the outside. I know you preached in the past that you wanted to keep opponents out of "Grade A", is that how you think you'll win games?
Dennehy: We are confident in our goaltenders. If we can limit shots to outside the circles and the dots, then we know our goalies will make the saves 9-plus times out of 10. That's just the game of hockey as I know it. Whether it was at Princeton or at UMass, it's always about making it hard for the other team to score, and then bury your chances. Over the past two years, we made it hard for opponents to score, but the problem was it was just as hard for us. Now we are starting to bury our chances, and we have some guys who can put pucks in the net. We'll never change our approach though, it's always going to be defense first.
McMahon: Derek Pallardy is the only guy on the team that hasn't just played solely for you. He is the only guy on that 2004-05 team. Is that an advantage, or a disadvantage?
Dennehy: At times I think it hurts us. One of the question marks we are going to have as we move forward is leadership. Derek is more than capable of being captain, but like in most organizations, it takes more than one person. Ryan Sullivan, who is one of the best captains I've ever been around, had Matt Byrnes and Justin Mills who were both great leaders in their own right. So, we need some guys to step up, some juniors, maybe even some sophomores that have enough invested in our program and know how we want to do it, and then vocalize that. I have no doubt that Derek will do a fine job, but it's not a one-man job.
McMahon: That sort of leads into my next question. You have recruited guys like Joe Loprieno and others who were captains at levels below Hockey East. Is that part of your strategy?
Dennehy: You know, everyone always talks about bringing in character. I think even Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati (Cincinnati Bengals, NFL) said he was going to bring in character, and I don't know how many of his players have been arrested in the past year. I'm not making light of that, but what I mean is that it's hard to find character. We do try to do that, if a kid is a captain it shows leadership qualities. We like to take kids out of programs that have success; Chris Barton has been to numerous Royal Bank Cups. We like to take guys like Francois Ouimet and Tom DeRosa who have led their teams, and their leagues in scoring. It doesn't directly equate to success in the NCAA, but it helps. Joe Loprieno is a guy who demands respect in our locker room and I think he gets it.
McMahon: Do you think the start will give you guys an increase in crowd size and fan support.
Dennehy: We are going to make a concerted effort to get the students here, and the community. I know that there is going to be e-mails sent to the students. One of the things we have done this year is we setup a table in the campus center on Friday's of game weekends. I am there manning it with a couple of our players, and we have our highlight reel playing and we want to get the students aware of what is going on and give them a reason to come and support us. We have had pretty good support at the beginning of both years I've been here. Bottom line is we have to win. I think our start this year will give people more of an inclination that this might be the case. We are going to try to get them out here, and once they come, it's our job to keep them here. Our play will dictate that.