NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — A giant has fallen … again.
The giant was No. 2 Boston College and its slayer was Merrimack, the unlikeliest of heroes entering the night in last place in Hockey East. In the end, Merrimack convincingly sent the Eagles home with a 6-3 defeat.
The knights in shining armor for the Warriors were, offensively, the young line of rookie Marco Rosa, sophomore Anthony Aquino and junior Nick Parillo. Defensively, the suit was worn by senior big-man Steve Moon.
The Rosa-Aquino-Parillo line displayed its offensive potency by figuring in four of Merrimack’s six goals, accounting for 11 total points. Parillo led the goal scoring with two goals combined with a single assist. Rosa and Aquino each notched a goal and three assists.
But playing against one of the top offenses in the country in Boston College, Merrimack and head coach Chris Serino knew that the first key would be to play solid defense. And Steve Moon showed he was in total agreement.
Pacing the defense with physical play, Moon tagged Eagle captain Brian Gionta early in the game, shaking up the small but potent scorer. The physical work continued most of the night for Moon, and a solid check of Hockey East’s top scorer Krys Kolanos into the Merrimack bench set up the game winning goal early in the third period.
“It’s because of the way we played defense tonight [that helped us win],” said Serino. “We played real aggressive in our own end.
“The last two games we played against BC [7-2 and 6-1 losses, respectively] we let them freewheel. Tonight they couldn’t freewheel. We played hard and physical and that kept them from freewheeling.”
For the Eagles and head coach Jerry York, the loss was not only unexpected, but disappointing. That said, though, York did nothing to take away from the Warriors.
“They’re a much improved team from the last time we played them,” said York of Merrimack. “They played well tonight and deserved to win the game. They capitalized on their chances.”
York also was quick to admit that penalties certainly hurt his club in the game.
“We gave them a lot of momentum off of penalties,” said York, referring to seven power play chances that the Eagles surrendered. “We took a penalty late in the second period. You can’t do that on the road because it gave the home team momentum.”
Though Merrimack didn’t capitalize on that power play, they did cash in twice, while holding the BC power play off the board on four chances.
“I was really impressed by our penalty kill tonight,” said Serino. “We got some good bounces [of the puck], but we also didn’t give them a lot of time to set up.”
Merrimack came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, with the result being an early lead for the Warriors.
At 3:45, Rosa took a drop pass from Aquino and snapped a shot by partially-screened BC netminder Scott Clemmensen (20 saves) for a 1-0 lead. The goal came just six seconds after a penalty to BC’s Bobby Allen expired and the Eagles defense got crossed in a line change.
Merrimack held momentum until the Warriors got a two-man advantage at 15:03. At that point the Warriors went into “glide” mode and forgot the importance of defense against such a high-flying offenses. The result — a shorthanded goal.
After a penalty on BC’s Brett Peterson expired, returning the Eagles to five-on-four down, rookie J.D. Forrest started a two-on-one rush thanks to some heads up defense. Reading a cross-zone pass by Merrimack, Forrest was able to deflect the offering to Ales Dolinar. Once crossing into the BC zone, Dolinar returned the puck back to Forrest, who one-timed the puck off the right post and into the net to pull the Eagles even through twenty minutes.
Early in the second, the two teams traded goals 62 seconds apart. Merrimack’s Vince Clevenger stuffed home the rebound of Ryan Kiley’s shot from the slot at 2:27. But BC answered when Mark McLennan’s wrist shot from the right circle beat Exter cleanly between the legs.
Merrimack regained the lead at 12:15 when Parillo executed a set faceoff play to perfection. Skating with the power play, Rosa won the draw forward, and Parillo, stationed near the board, skated around the defense, gathered the puck, walked in front of Clemmensen and roofed the puck for a 3-2 lead.
“I don’t know how I got open,” said Parillo. “That was a gift but I’ll take it. Heck, I’ll take anything right now.”
The Warriors looked to open their first two-goal lead at 14:23 when Rosa scored on a partial breakaway. But referee Scott Hansen, barely over the blueline when the puck entered the net, disallowed the goal saying that the net had come off its post before the puck crossed the line.
Anyone knows that to be a top-ranked team, it helps to capitalize on the misfortune of others, and that’s exactly what BC did. At 17:48, with Merrimack caught in a line change, Chuck Kobesew buried a Dolinar pass from 40 feet away to even the game going into the third period.
Moon, though receiving no credit on the scoresheet, set up what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 3:40 of the third. After Moon buried Eagles top gun Kolanos in the defensive zone, Merrimack transitioned quickly and sent Parillo in alone for his second goal of the night.
Said Moon, “The physical part is an important part of my game. I don’t know if the hits I made rattled [BC], but it’s a part of my game that I like to play.”
With the Eagles pressing for the tying goal, a costly mistake by BC’s Bobby Allen led to insurance for the Warriors. John Pyliotis blindly robbed Allen in the corner to the left of Clemmensen, walked out in front and roofed a wrister over the goaltender’s shoulder to give Merrimack a 5-3 lead with 3:27 to play.
That’s when the wheels feel off the apple cart for the Eagles. Within 35 seconds, defensemen Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi were in the penalty box for undisciplined penalties, leading to an Aquino goal with 2:46 to play, cementing the 6-3 final.
For BC, which now stands at 15-6-1 (8-3-1 Hockey East), the loss is its third in the last six games. The Eagles were unable to gain any ground over New Hampshire and Providence, which are tied for second place, two points behind BC. The Eagles will face Providence in a home-and-home series this weekend, beginning Friday night at Boston College.
Merrimack (11-12-2, 4-8-1 Hockey East) leap-frogged over UMass-Lowell by virtue of the win. With nine points, the Warriors are tied for seventh place with Northeastern (nine points each) and are a point behind UMass-Amherst (10 points) for sixth place. Merrimack faces UMass-Amherst in a home-and-home series, beginning Friday in Amherst. The Thursday following, the Warriors will travel to Northeastern.