Providence, Merrimack Skate to Draw on Choppy Ice in Frozen Fenway Opener

picresized_1388890481_frozen fenwayBOSTON — Offense was sparse in the opening game of Frozen Fenway 2014 between Providence and Merrimack, as goalies Nick Ellis and Rasmus Tirronen both took shutouts deep into the third period.

Merrimack senior — and Boston native — Mike Collins put the Warriors on the board first with a rocket past Ellis on the power play at the 7:23 mark of the third, but Providence captain Steven Shamanski responded by fooling Tirronen with a brilliant deke for a power-play tally of his own just 2:26 later. That would represent the entirety of the scoring, as the third meeting of the year between the two Hockey East rivals ended in a 1-1 tie.

Warmer temperatures made for slightly better ice conditions than during Friday’s practices, when wind chills dipped below zero, but the choppy sheet clearly affected play for both sides, especially in the early going.

“The ice was actually a lot better than it was [Friday],” Collins said, “but there were still some spots that got pretty dangerous out there. It was almost down to the concrete [in places], so we tried to stay away from that. But other than that, it wasn’t that bad. It bounced a little more, but we kind of expected that.”

Senior defenseman Brendan Ellis, who assisted on Collins’ goal, said the Warriors may have been a bit overwhelmed by the different surroundings early on, and it showed. Providence controlled the tempo for much of the first period jumping out to a 5-1 shot advantage before Merrimack was able to settle down and gain a bit of momentum.

Gaining and keeping momentum was a problem for both teams throughout the evening, as the rough conditions and frequent clock stoppages made it difficult to apply consistent pressure. Providence head coach Nate Lehman referred to it as having to play “50 little mini-games,” and he hopes it prepared his team for challenges that might await.

“It was very much like an NCAA [tournament] game,” Lehman said, “in the fact that there’s long stoppages. The TV timeouts were supposed to be a minute, but because they were fixing the ice, a lot of time those timeouts ended up being two minutes, three minutes. That’s a lot like an NCAA game, in that you can build momentum and then there will be a long stoppage. You somehow have to refocus, regroup. You’re always starting from scratch in those games.”

Since the teams had already met twice earlier this season, Saturday’s result will not count toward the conference standings.

Photo via Twitter/@hockey_east

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