NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Heading into Wednesday night’s contest at Merrimack, Boston University’s Brian Collins had been struggling. Credit BU assistant coach Mike Bavis for changing that.
“Mike Bavis, the assistant coach, made me change sticks yesterday,” said Collins. “He was out working with us during practice and he told me to get rid of the stick I had and he didn’t want to see me within 10 feet of it ever again.”
That might not be a bad idea. BU, behind two Brian Collins power-play goals, defeated Merrimack, 4-1. Collins earned the first star of the game for his effort.
“I think I might sleep with [the new stick] tonight,” said a jovial Collins after the game.
Jack Parker was pleased that Collins had a bit of a breakout night.
“We’ve been trying to get him going,” said Parker. “Tonight he made some nice plays. He’s a goal scorer and we’ve got to have him going down the stretch for us.”
Sean Fields was also stellar.
“I think the difference in the game was that they had three unbelievable opportunities that Fields just stoned them on. If he didn’t make those [saves] we’d still be playing right now,” Parker said.
Associate head coach Mike Doneghey of Merrimack also cited Fields’ outstanding play as a major factor in the game.
“I thought we had some pretty good chances. Fields made some great saves,” Doneghey said.
BU got going early in the first period when Jack Baker, leading a 3 on 2 rush, dished it to Brian McConnell. McConnell fired it on net and the rebound came out to John Sabo, who put his fifth goal of the season home for the 1-0 lead at 3:37 of the first.
Though they tried, Merrimack couldn’t respond on the goal sheet in the first. Merrimack had two chances right on BU’s doorstep. The first was a Lucas Smith bid at the eight-minute mark just to Fields’ right which he made the stop on. The second came when the rebound of a Ryan Kiley shot came right out to Steve Crusco. Crusco had an open net to shoot at – but not for long. Fields made a stack save to keep the game 1-0 with six minutes to play in the first.
The second period was a chippy affair as both teams racked up double digits in penalty minutes and a handful of roughing calls were made. It wasn’t all rough stuff though.
Collins’ first goal came at 4:29 of the second on a BU power play. A Merrimack giveaway to Collins was floated out to Mike Pandolfo in front, who spun and sent a backhander on net. Collins was there for the rebound.
“I was behind the net and I just tried to chip it out to Mike [Pandolfo] and he just threw it on net and I just came out from behind the net and it was a tap in,” said Collins.
His next goal also came on a BU man advantage.
“The second one I just came out in front and [Bryan] Miller threw a really good wrist shot at the net and I knocked it down and luckily I put one in,” said Collins.
The goal made the score 3-0 but the game was far from over.
Just 11 seconds later, Merrimack got on the board when Ryan Cordeiro scored his 15th of the season. Nick Torretti lost an attempted toe tuck around a BU defender just to the right of the cage. The puck squirted out to a waiting Cordeiro in the slot and he threw it home to pull the Warriors within two.
The third period up and down, with both teams trading chances and neither team really carrying the play.
Merrimack had an opportunity at 7:59 of the period when Frantisek Skladany was given a game misconduct for hitting from behind. The resulting five minute power play was killed off easily by BU and was a deflating turn of events by all accounts.
“It killed us,” said a downtrodden Doneghey. “Our power play is anemic right now. We’re not moving the puck well and we’re taking chances we shouldn’t take.
“I think that’s been a problem for us all year. We’ve got some high-end skill guys up front and I think that they think that if they don’t do it themselves then we’re not going to be in the game. But by them trying to do that, it takes the rest of the team out of it.
“But I think that’s normal in any team that has some high-end guys. They feel like they have to overachieve for us to be successful. That isn’t necessarily the case.”
Merrimack and BU will square off again on Friday night in what should be a typical hard fought Hockey East battle.
“It will be more difficult to win Friday than it was to win tonight,” said Parker. “The advantage in the second game usually goes to the team that lost the game before.”
Added Doneghey, “Will we better on Friday? Absolutely. We’ll be better Friday, as will BU, so we don’t have a choice.”