Perspective. It’s a tough thing to have immediately following an emotional loss in Orono, Maine. It’s also a tough thing to have following an emotional regular season win over the second ranked team in the country in Baltimore, Maryland. In each case though it is important to keep the correct perspective and to learn from it in a way that will help to ultimately advance the program you are associated with.
The men’s lacrosse team was ranked eighth coming into the second game of the season against a team, Limestone, that is traditionally a Division II power, had played eight games already and was ranked second in the country. At the end of the neutral site contest, Merrimack emerged with a 12-11 win scoring the game-winner with 12 seconds left. The last two years the lacrosse team has suffered early regular season losses which have severely impacted their NCAA chances at the end of the year. Its seems they may have learned from past mistakes and now have set themselves up for success come Northeast-10 and NCAA Tournament time. Of course, that’s only if they continue to take it one game at a time and don’t start believing that because of the Limestone win they are better than perhaps they really are. Perspective.
Quick, where was the Merrimack hockey team predicted to finish in preseason voting by the Hockey East coaches? If you answered fifth you are correct. Guess where Merrimack finished this year. Again if you answered fifth you are correct. To some it may seem like we didn’t meet our expectations. I would argue that this year was as successful as any we have had in Merrimack hockey history. While it was only November, being ranked as the top team in the country was significant for this program given its history. Being nationally ranked for the entire season is also very significant as is qualifying for the Hockey East playoffs. That’s three straight years for a program that missed the postseason in its previous five. Time for another question. Name the only Hockey East school to have a national television contract. The answer is Merrimack, which televised six games on Fox College Sports and nine games in the Boston and Manchester area on WBIN-TV – both firsts. Which school played to 98.8% of capacity in their home rink this year to lead Hockey East? Again Merrimack is the answer with 15 sellouts in 17 games this year, a school record.
To be honest with you, my perspective wasn’t as positive as it is now, but that all changed with the Hockey East Quarterfinals in Maine over the weekend. You have no doubt heard that Dr. Hopey in concert with the Athletics Department sponsored a student trip to Orono for the weekend. Over 200 Merrimack students, which is about 10% of the college’s enrollment, made the trip and if you are a fan, alum or parent associated with Merrimack you should be proud. The students cheered for their fellow classmates in a way that I have never seen before, nor had anyone at Alfond Arena seen before from a visiting team’s fans. I often speak of how important pride is in what we are building not only in the athletics department, but also at the College. And pride was on full display all weekend. As Mark Dennehy later said (and Mark played at Boston College and coached at UMass) no school has ever come in and essentially taken over Alfond Arena like Merrimack did over the weekend.
On Friday night, it was a nice story when my staff and I were speaking to Maine fans. Not surprisingly after beating the Black Bears Saturday night the nice story about student support turned into our students being labeled as obnoxious as opposed to the “angels” that were Maine students and adult supporters. Clearly Merrimack, that small Catholic school north of Boston, which was a nice, feel-good story the previous season has now passed into a new level. A level that at least Maine fans viewed (whether they choose to admit it or not) as a program that threatened what Maine was trying to accomplish. I have always admired the Maine hockey program and I respect their athletics administration as much as any school we work with. There administration is first-class all the way. The support from our fans combined with the reaction from their fans was yet another in a long line of indicators that suggest that we continue to make progress in the forms of pride, passion and success as it relates to the College.
Perspective. When you work at a College often times it’s the 18-22 year-olds that we get to know and see on a daily basis that provide perspective best.