Men’s Hockey Sweeps Merrimack, Advances to Semis
By JD Biagioni
Who: Merrimack Warriors
Where: Conte Forum
When: Friday, March 9th
Result: BC 1 – Merrimack 0
Depending on how you look at it, this was either BC’s most impressive or disheartening game of the season.
First for the negatives. BC was outshot 37-13, and the team was only able to muster 6 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. They did not deserve to win this game.
On a more positive note, it was encouraging to see the Eagles win a game that they had no business winning. Sophomore backstop Joe Woll turned in his most impressive performance of the season, turning aside all Warrior scoring opportunities.
Woll entered the season viewed as one of the top players in the Hockey East. He has struggled to find consistency all season, but here’s to hoping two shutouts in his last four outings spells future success. His performance in net is crucial if the Eagles want to keep playing postseason hockey.
As far as game action, there weren’t many highlights. Merrimack came soaring out of the games and seemed to remain a step ahead of the BC skaters throughout the contest. The Warrior defense remained stingy, making BC earn every entry into the attacking zone. On the other end, the Merrimack forwards were able to sneak behind BC’s defense on multiple occasions and generate odd-man rushes.
The lone goal of the night was scored by BC on the man advantage with a few minutes remaining in the second period. Aapeli Rasanen help the puck behind the net before dumping it off to Graham McPhee along the far wall. McPhee sent a centering pass to Connor Moore, who ripped a one-timer over Merrimack goalie Craig Pantano’s shoulder.
Merrimack bombarded Woll with shots in the third but Woll held sturdy and carried BC to a game 1 victory.
Number to know: 14 – number of times BC has been the one seed in the Hockey East Tournament
Who: Merrimack Warriors
Where: Conte Forum
When: Saturday, March 10th
Result: BC 4 – Merrimack 3 (OT)
The offense picked it up a little in this one, generating 22 shots and netting 4 goals. But BC still had to battle it out against Merrimack to advance to the semifinals.
The teams went scoreless in the first, but BC took a 1-0 advantage just over halfway through the game when Mike Booth, in for the injured Graham McPhee, scored his first goal of the season. Booth won a defensive zone draw to Michael Kim. Kim flipped the puck out and Logan Hutsko won the race to the loose puck. He flung it over to Booth and Booth buried a wrister.
Three minutes later, JD Dudek doubled the Eagle lead. Chris Grando forced a turnover off a Merrimack miscue. The puck bounded over to Dudek and he rifled the puck into the back of the net.
Merrimack wouldn’t go away, as the Warriors scored 19 seconds after the Dudek goal on a Johnathan Kovacevic slapshot that trickled over the goal line. Merrimack evened the score in the final minute of the second on a Ludvig Larsson power play goal.
Early in the third, BC retook the lead. Kim fed Hutsko in the neutral zone. Hutsko was joined by Julius Mattila to create a 2-on-1 opportunity. Hutsko held the puck until just the right moment. He then flung the puck across to Mattila who tapped it in.
With five minutes left in regulation, Merrimack controlled play in the BC zone. Desperate to tie the game once again, the Warriors set up up Larsson at the left dot. Larsson fed a tape-to-tape pass over to Tyler Irvine. Irvine completed the play before Woll could slide over to attempt a save.
The game went to overtime, where Casey Fitzgerald was whistled for hooking at 3:15. As Merrimack attempted to penetrate the BC zone, Connor Moore poked the puck loose. Chris Grando gained control of the loose puck and backhanded it through Pantano’s legs to send the Eagles to the Garden on a walkoff victory.
All the top seeds took care of business on home ice this weekend, so BC will play BU for the third time this season Friday at 5. That will be followed by Northeastern-Providence. The two winners will play for the championship Saturday night.
Number to know: 9 – consecutive seasons in which BC has won 20+ games.