CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Anyone who knows Boston College hockey knew that it was inevitable that senior captain Brian Gionta would one day leave Boston College with his name attached to at least one or two records. But not many knew that he’d achieve this all in one game.
Thanks to a three-goal performance as part of a 7-2 victory over Merrimack on Tuesday night, Gionta tied the Boston College record for career hat tricks (eight). He did so by scoring his second and third goals just 10 seconds apart, setting a Hockey East record for the fastest two goals by a single player.
Not enough? The three goals give Gionta 10 on the season, but more importantly 100 on his career, only the fourth player in Eagle history to do so.
“I don’t think it will really sink in until after the season is over,” Gionta said about his record-setting evening. Gionta also admitted that he knew nothing about scoring 100 goals until it was announced by the public address announcer, and until he was told by reporters, knew nothing about scoring the fastest consecutive goals.
“I try not to think about records,” Gionta said. “I don’t want to know where I stand on all-time lists, and won’t know until [the media] tells me.”
For Eagles coach Jerry York, Gionta’s accomplishment was more than impressive.
“He joins an elite group of guys with 100 goals,” said York. “He’s been great to watch and really a bonus for college hockey. It’s great that he’s stayed four years here.”
Gionta joins three other past Eagles in the 100-goal club: David Emma (115), Joe Mullen (110) and Scott Harlow (105). Gionta stands fifth on the all-time point list, behind his three century-club partners and Richie Smith. Only one point separates Gionta (197) from Smith (198).
Not to be lost in Gionta’s milestones was an absolutely dominant performance by the Boston College offense against the Warriors for the second time in five days. The Eagles routed Merrimack, 6-1, on Friday night, outshooting them, 31-13, that night. Tuesday, the Eagles plastered 56 shots on Merrimack goaltenders Joe Exter (36 saves in 44:42) and Tom Welby (13 saves in 15:18), to Merrimack’s 22.
All of this translates to headaches for Warrior coach Chris Serino. The flamboyant Warrior coach not known for pulling any punches, certainly didn’t in the post-game interviews.
“We have to start all over,” said Serino, referring to his team’s complete defensive breakdown in the last few games. “We have to start with basic defense and work out. Defense is where it starts. We didn’t learn anything between Friday [night's loss] and tonight.
“We just didn’t play any defense. We may have well not even been in the defensive zone. We were nothing but obstacles for them to go around. There were a couple of shifts out there that were absolutely embarrassing. I’m almost ashamed to say we worked on defense.”
Both teams utilized two goaltenders, with Exter being replaced by Welby after the Eagles’ sixth goal. For Boston College, Tim Kelleher (19 saves) made his fourth start in goal, getting his second win, before being replaced by Tom Egan (one save) late, once the game was well decided.
“It was good to see [Kelleher] have a good game,” said York. “He hasn’t had the greatest start this year, so it’s good to see him be tested and play well.”
The first period began with complete Eagles domination. Before Merrimack even had the puck in the offensive zone, BC was on the board. Bobby Allen’s blast was saved by Exter, but Krys Kolanos (three assists) followed up the rebound. Once settling the puck, Kolanos fired a low shot that Exter again saved, but Mike Lephart banged home the rebound, giving the Eagles the lead 49 seconds into the game.
But the Warriors answered at 4:33, scoring on their first shot of the game. Anthony Aquino, skating three-on-two with Nick Parillo and John Pyliotis, fed Parillo in the slot. Parillo redeflected it between the five-hole of Kelleher to knot the game at one.
When Merrimack was victimized by a five-on-three shorthand, BC regained the lead. Tic-tac-toe passing from Lephart at the right faceoff dot to Marty Hughes at the left post resulted in Gionta being set up in the slot. All that was left was a quick Gionta wrist shot to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
At 12:34, the Eagles expanded the lead. Jeff Giuliano skated out at the left post, looking like he was about to wrap the puck in on Exter, but rather fired a pass to Chuck Kobasew on the opposite post. Kobasew had the easy task of pushing the puck into the empty net.
BC finished the period with a lopsided total in shots, outshooting Merrimack 26-6. The difference, though, was in quality opportunities. Though many of BC’s shots were in close, four of Merrimack’s six shots came off odd-man rushes or right on the doorstep, forcing Kelleher to make difficult saves.
If Merrimack fans thought the first period tough, early portions of the second could’ve been much worse if not for the Warriors favorite chemical element — iron. Three Eagles shots, two by Lephart himself, deflected off either the post or crossbar in the first seven minutes to keep the score close at 3-1.
The Warriors looked to have averted another near miss as Exter made an incredible sliding save on Kolanos, kicking the save on a two-on one to the corner. But, while trying to recover, J.D. Forrest banked a shot off the fallen Exter and into the net.
From there, Gionta took over, scoring the next two goals at 3:23 and 3:33 of the third period. His first was a classic Gionta goal. Breaking down the left-wing side, Gionta saw his original shot get blocked by the Warrior defense, but the rebound bounced to the slot, and as Gionta spun around on a 360 move, he batted the puck with his backhand over a fallen Exter.
Seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Gionta again got behind the Merrimack defense, allowing Ben Eaves’ home-run, breakaway pass to send Gionta in alone. Cutting from left to right, Gionta froze Exter and tucked the shot inside the right post, putting the game on ice, and cementing his name forever in the BC history books.
“The first goal was weird. I just tried to get the puck to the net and the goalie was already down,” said Gionta. “[The second goal] was a great pass by Eaves.
“It felt good to get those goals really quick because I knew we had put the game away.”
From there, Kobasew and Parillo simply traded goals, the second of the game for each, to account for the 7-2 final.
The win catapulted BC (10-3-0, 5-1-0 Hockey East) past New Hampshire and Providence, both of whom were idle on Tuesday, into first place in Hockey East. Merrimack fell to 4-7-1 (2-5-0 Hockey East).
The game was the last of the year 2000 at the Heights for the Eagles. They hit the road for six straight games, beginning Saturday night at the Bright Center against Harvard. Merrimack returns home this weekend for a two-game series against Nebraska-Omaha.