POTSDAM, N.Y. - Junior goaltender Rasmus Tirronen turned aside 34 shots to earn his first career shutout as Merrimack College skated to a 4-0 win against Clarkson on Saturday night at Cheel Arena.
While the Merrimack offense gave plenty of support for Tirronen early, the Finnish netminder was fabulous from the midpoint of the second period onward en route to his first career shutout, while the Warrior penalty kill also posted one of its best performances of the season, going a perfect 8-for-8 on the night to keep the home side at bay.
In what eventually devolved into a physical, penalty-filled affair, Merrimack capitalized on extended power-play time at the end of the first and in the early goings of the second period, as junior Quinn Gould (Fort McMurray, Alberta) and senior Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) each found the back of the net less than two minutes apart to give their goaltender the most offensive support he had seen all season.
Meanwhile, Tirronen was at his best, tying his career high with the aforementioned 34 stops, with the bulk of them coming on the seven power plays that Clarkson enjoyed from the middle of the second period through the final buzzer. Those heroics assured the visitors that their lead was never in danger, as Merrimack picked up its first road win of the season in the process.
Merrimack gained momentum midway through the first after junior Clayton Jardine (Lacombe, Alberta) put the visitors on the board; then, with the three-goal lead from the early portions of the second period, Merrimack's defense would hold its own the rest of the night before senior Rhett Bly (Regina, Saskatchewan) deposited an empty-net marker late in regulation to account for his first goal in just under a calendar year.
After withholding an initial barrage of Clarkson shots at the start of the game, both sides fought through a physical opening period that saw a combined eight penalties - including two late calls near the end of the period. But the story in the first stanza was Jardine getting the Warriors on the board at 11:17, receiving a feed from sophomore Ben Bahe (Stillwater, Minn.) and scoring from the left circle to push Merrimack up by one midway through the first.
After a late interference call against Merrimack put the hosts on the power play with less than two minutes left in the first, a trio of penalties - including a facemasking major and game misconduct call against A.J. Fossen - placed Merrimack on a late 4-on-3 power play which it carried into the second period.
The piling up of penalties played into the visitors' favor, as Merrimack wasted little time taking advantage of its extended power plays. After just missing while skating with a 5-on-3 advantage, Gould punched in a gritty rebound goal at 2:16 after Collins took the initial shot. Senior Jordan Heywood (Regina, Saskatchewan) also assisted on the tally.
With Clarkson still serving the major penalty, the Knights did themselves no favors with yet another boarding call to put the visitors back on a 5-on-3 advantage. That led to Collins extending the Navy and Gold's lead to three on a quick shot from the point that deflected into the net at 3:54, as Merrimack skated ahead, 3-0, in the early moments of the second stanza. Junior Vinny Scotti (Vineland, N.J.) and senior Brendan Ellis (Kelowna, British Colubmia) each contributed on the scoring play, with the latter extended his assist streak to five straight games in the process.
After the Knights finally got all of their men out of the box, Merrimack fell into penalty trouble of its own with three straight penalties over a nine-minute span; the Warrior penalty kill - ranked 14th in the nation heading into the game - was up to the task, however, fending off all three Clarkson power plays to send Merrimack into the locker room with a three-goal edge after 40 minutes.
The third period saw 10 more penalties pile up, including a game disqualification call to Alex Boak for facemasking, but Tirronen was up to the task time and time again despite Clarkson outshooting Merrimack by a 13-2 margin in the final stanza.