BOSTON, Mass. — After bending but not breaking for two and a half periods, Merrimack finally succumbed to Boston University, 4-0. The undefeated Terriers broke open a 1-0 game with three goals from defensemen in less than three minutes, two on the power play by Chris Dyment and the other by John Cronin.
Merrimack goaltender Joe Exter, who would finish with 36 saves, played splendidly, as is his wont against BU, until the roof finally caved in due to a rash of third-period penalties. He had entered the game with a 2.02 GAA and a .940 save percentage in two prior career games against the Terriers.
Following an evenly played first period, BU outshot Merrimack 32-12 over the final 40 minutes, but couldn’t crack the game open until Dyment’s power-play goals at 11:49 and 14:05 of the third period gave the Terriers a 3-0 lead. Cronin’s goal came just 28 seconds after Dyment’s second, putting the final nail in the Warrior coffin.
BU goaltender Sean Fields needed 21 saves to post his second career shutout, both coincidentally coming against Merrimack. His previous one came in his first collegiate start last Nov. 4. Although the Warriors didn’t challenge often over the last 40 minutes, their infrequent sorties were invariably dangerous.
“It was an even game in the first period and maybe they had the better chances, but after that we really clamped down pretty well,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “In the second and third period we dominated as far as shots and opportunities, but I thought the best part of the game was when the score was 1-0 and they had a couple great chances.
“They only had [four] shots [in the second period], but one was on a breakaway and the other was a two-on-one. Fields came up big.”
Entering the season, the Terrier blue line was expected to be among the best in Hockey East and the strength of the team. In their league opener, the blueliners did not disappoint both offensively and in shutting down Merrimack.
“One of the reasons why we were down in their end a lot was because we had a lot of poise on our attacking blue line,” said Parker. “When the puck came back to our defensemen, they kept the puck in and didn’t turn the puck over or just pass it back to the other team. They were making good plays and we were getting great support backing each other up on the forecheck.”
While the win lifted BU to a 3-0-0 overall record and a 1-0-0 mark in Hockey East, the loss dropped Merrimack to 2-3-0 and 0-2-0, respectively. On an ominous note, the Warriors have now allowed 40 or more shots in all five games except Friday night’s 3-0 win over Union.
“What can you say?” said associate head coach Mike Doneghey, speaking for head coach Chris Serino, who was behind the bench despite going through treatments for throat cancer. “We were in it again, 1-0, and then with about  minutes left we started taking some stupid penalties. It’s been the same M-O for us. We stay in it and then take some undisciplined penalties that end up costing us.”
A scoreless first period included only a few strong chances for both sides, but Exter and Fields made the stops. In doing so Exter accomplished what Renssalaer and Vermont netminders had been unable to do, namely keep BU off the board in the first period.
One of Exter’s best saves came on an early two-on-one shorthanded rush by Mark Mullen and Jack Baker. Late in the period, he also stopped in succession a Kenny Magowan wraparound attempt and a Gregg Johnson shot in front.
In between, Fields stopped Marco Rosa’s deke to the backhand off an Anthony Aquino feed from the left boards and, minutes later, Ryan Cordeiro’s shot from the left faceoff dot.
BU owned the second period territorially, taking a 1-0 lead in the process. The Terriers kept play in the Merrimack end for long stretches of time, building a 14-4 shot advantage.
The goal came at 8:07 when Johnson took a Dyment pass up to the far blue line, skated into the zone, cut right-to-left into the slot and then slid a pass against the grain to Frantisek Skladany. Skladany then beat Exter from low in the faceoff circle.
The Terriers followed up that score with several strong chances and an almost total presence in the Merrimack end. Exter, however, held the fort to keep the Warriors within striking distance.
With three minutes remaining in the period, the exceptional counterpunching opportunity developed that the Warriors had hoped for. Even better, the puck was on the stick of Anthony Aquino, who had entered the game with five goals in four games. Aquino broke in with Rosa two-on-one and Aquino ripped a shot that appeared labeled for the upper corner. However, Fields flashed his glove to snare the shot and avoid a major momentum swing.
“It was the exact same goal I scored against UNH,” said Aquino. “I had the exact same play two-on-one. I had the goalie beat. I had him down and he showed me the top corner.
“[Fields] does that all the time. He did that to me a couple times last year and a couple of times in this game. He really likes his glove so he shows you his glove and then he takes it away.”
The potential game-saving play allowed BU’s offense to then put Merrimack away late in the third. With Rosa in the penalty box for tripping, Dyment fired from the left point through a Mike Pandolfo screen to beat the red-hot Exter for a 2-0 lead.
Little more than two minutes later with Aquino in the box and BU up four-on-three, Dyment caught Exter moving side-to-side and beat him five-hole.
Fellow blueliner John Cronin ripped a slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle into the far top corner of the net for the final tally of 4-0.