NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — For a blue-collar team like Merrimack, the formula to beat a talent-laden team like No. 2 Boston College is to outhit, outshoot, and, in general, outplay the opposition. When the opposite happens, you end up with what 3,026 fans witnessed at the Volpe Complex Friday night — a 6-1 Eagles rout.
Warriors coach Chris Serino admitted that his team’s poor performance did shock him, saying that he sensed a poor week of practice could translate into a disastrous game.
“I sensed it all week,” said Serino. “We played tonight like we’ve played in practice.
“But in practice you can keep doing it until you get it right. In a game, you don’t have a second chance. You don’t get two more periods to go out and do it right.
“I know how we can play, but we can compete 100 times better than we did tonight. Tonight we didn’t just get outplayed, we were out-competed. I can accept being outplayed, but the day I accept being out-competed is the day I hang ‘em up.”
The loss was the first home defeat for Merrimack this season, having entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record. BC, though, remained undefeated on the road this season, polishing its perfect 6-0 record.
“This is a tough building to get a win in,” said BC coach Jerry York, whose Eagles lost 2-0 at the Volpe early last season. “It’s a small building so it’s going to be a physical game. Historically it’s tough for teams to come in here.”
Forward Krys Kolonos, whose two goals Friday helped him maintain the Eagles’ team and league lead in scoring with 21 points (12 goals, nine assist), agreed.
“It’s a tight barn here, kind of like old-time hockey,” said Kolonos. “It was a real physical game for us, but we used our speed to beat them, even though it was a small barn.”
Eagles captain Brian Gionta, who has struggled in recent years against Merrimack, also notched two goals for BC. Entering Friday’s game, Gionta had only two assists in the last two year’s against Merrimack, and had not scored at the Volpe Complex since his freshman campaign.
Gionta noted after the game that the Eagles didn’t look past Merrimack, knowing that Saturday night BC hosts No. 9 New Hampshire.
“I knew we wouldn’t [overlook Merrimack],” said Gionta. “We realize that every game is big in the league, and we like to come out and play hard on the road. Tonight was a big two points for us.”
Past matchups between these two clubs have seen some solid goaltending battles, especially between Merrimack’s Tom Welby and BC’s Scott Clemmensen. Friday though, the ice seemed slanted toward Welby, and though the senior netminder played well, making plenty of point-blank saves, the six goals against did not resemble many of Welby’s past performance versus BC.
Welby finished the game with 25 saves, whereas Clemmensen was all but untested, recording just 12 stops.
Early in the first period, Kolonos proved why he’s Hockey East’s leading scorer, getting the Eagles on the board at 1:26. With Luke Smith draped on his back, Kolonos wheeled around the offensive zone, shook Smith and then double-deked Welby before banking the puck off the right post for a highlight-reel goal that gave BC a 1-0 lead.
Merrimack had its chance to tie the game five minutes later when Tim Reidy’s breakaway resulted in Clemmensen getting pulled out of position. When the rebound found Sean Ober’s stick, a goal looked sure until Eagle defenseman Rob Scuderi made the save, taking Clemmensen’s position in the crease.
At 14:18, the Eagles extended the lead as they killed off a penalty to Tony Voce. Just as Voce was released from the penalty box, Mike Lephart’s clearing attempt became a “look-what-I-found”, as it ended up on Voce’s stick. The rookie broke in alone on Welby and beat him high for his fourth goal of the season.
Scuderi gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead when his wrist shot from the right point beat Welby. The shot appeared to go through some dense traffic before beating Welby along the ice inside the post to his right.
At 5:36, Gionta broke the curse of the Volpe Complex, burying a Brooks Orpik home-run pass over Welby’s shoulder.
Merrimack finally got on the board at 8:05 while shorthanded. Ryan Kiley skated two-on-two into the defensive zone before dropping the puck to John Pyliotis. The pass drew both defensemen to Kiley, allowing Pyliotis to blasted the puck through Clemmensen’s five-hole to close the gap to 4-1.
But BC answered with a shorthanded goal of its own, when Gionta picked off a Vince Clevenger pass in the BC offensive zone, walked in alone and pushed the puck past a fallen Welby.
The second period ended with the Eagles holding a 16-6 advantage in shots, which added to the 9-1 total for the first period, had the Eagles dominating Merrimack, 25-7, on the shot chart and 5-1 on the scoreboard.
The BC power play finally broke through in the third period when Kolonos tallied his second of the game on the Eagles fifth man-advantage. Positioned in the slot, Kolonos blasted a Jeff Giuliano pass inside the right post so hard that the puck seemed to come out faster than it went in the net.
From there, the Eagles had only to hold Merrimack at check. Thanks to the large lead, BC was able to rest some of their top forwards in preparation for Saturday night’s matchup with New Hampshire.
“I made a solid effort to play all 12 forwards tonight,” said York. “Earlier in the year, we looked tired in that sense. But our fourth line is solid and it lets us rest players like Gionta and Lephart and other players.”
The win improves the Eagles’ record to 9-2-0, and keeps them the only team in Hockey East with a perfect mark (4-0-0). Merrimack drops to 4-6-1 (2-4-0 in Hockey East).
Though Boston College will host UNH Saturday night, Merrimack will be idle until these two teams rematch on Tuesday night at Conte Forum.