NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The reasons were all stacked against the Merrimack Warriors. They had yet to win a game; in Boston University, they were facing the sixth-ranked team in the country. Merrimack had been a unanimous preseason pick in the Hockey East coaches’ poll to finish last; BU had been the choice of all but two coaches to finish first. The Warriors had flown to Michigan for Friday and Saturday games and then flown back on Sunday; the Terriers’ last contest had been at home on Friday.
One of the few people ignoring all the logic was Nick Serino, son of Merrimack coach Chris Serino. Well, sort of ignoring the logic.
“Before the game,” said the elder Serino, “I said to my son, ‘Nick, give me a prediction on the game,’
“’5-3,’ he said. … But he didn’t say who.
“Then I said to him, ‘Who?’ and he said, ‘Um, oh, oh … you.’
“His friend thought that he was drinking.”
Instead, Nick Serino’s friend might be renaming the coach’s son Nostradamus because the Warriors outplayed their highly-regarded rival and earned a 5-3 win in both teams’ first Hockey East game.
Merrimack seized the lead late in the second period and added an insurance goal in the third for the final margin. The scoring came from all directions: Marco Rosa, the team’s best player; rookies Nick Pomponio and Brent Gough; sophomore Steve Crusco with his fourth career goal; and defenseman Eric Pederson, who broke a 55-game drought dating back to Dec. 8, 2000.
And yet, the win was anything but a fluke. Territorially, on the scoreboard and in every other way the Warriors matched, or more than matched, the nation’s number six team.
“The thing I was most pleased with tonight was when we had a lead at the end of the game and [BU] pulled their goalie, we kept our composure,” said Serino. “We weren’t rattled, just throwing the puck around. We played with poise. That’s what I’m real proud of with a young team like we have.”
BU coach Jack Parker, on the other hand, was none too pleased with his team’s effort and overall play.
“Give Merrimack credit,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “They outplayed us. This wasn’t a game where we outplayed them and we let something slip away. They outplayed us. They could have had six or seven more goals, I thought.
“It was a total lack of effort on our part from just about everybody. I thought Freddy Meyer and [Ryan] Whitney had good games for us. I thought John Sabo had a good game. You couldn’t find another player in red who played anywhere near to his capabilities or was mentally ready to play.”
When asked why that was, Parker could only respond, “I have no idea.”
Merrimack (1-2-1, 1-0-0 HEA) now must wait 10 days for its next game, a Nov. 1 contest at New Hampshire. Boston University (1-1-2, 0-1-0) returns to action this Friday, hosting Nebraska-Omaha.
Rosa got the scoring started from the slot at 4:13 of the first period on Merrimack’s first significant opportunity. The four-on-four goal came one second before the Warriors were to go on the power play and marked the first time BU had been scored upon this season while at even strength.
Merrimack had several chances heading into the last six minutes of the period, but couldn’t capitalize. A Gough shot broke through BU netminder Sean Fields’ pads and through the crease, but wide. While shorthanded, Nick Cammarata picked Frantisek Skladany’s pocket at the point and took off on a breakaway, but Fields made the stop. And on a three-on-two, Tony Johnson got it to Matt Johnson on the far post, but the freshman couldn’t control it enough to redirect it on net.
The quality chances turned dramatically in the Terriers’ direction later in the period, though, as Justin Maiser had several, none better than when he had Merrimack goaltender Joe Exter down and out only to have defenseman Tony Johnson make the save.
BU finally did get on the board, though, with 16 seconds left in the period off a Freddy Meyer carry into the zone along the right boards and John Sabo’s conversion of the opportunity.
Having struck in the final minute of the first period, Sabo then repeated the feat in the opening minute when he was left all alone in front and converted a pass from Skladany.
Pomponio knotted the game at 2-2 when he deflected a Bryan Schmidt shot from the point. But the fireworks were just about to begin.
At 13:06, Gough kicked off a span of little more than two minutes in which three goals were scored and the game ultimately was decided. After Rosa forced a turnover at the top of the right defensive faceoff circle, Gough collected the loose puck and then used Matt Johnson as a decoy on the far side post, beating Fields five-hole for a 3-2 margin.
The Terriers quickly responded when Brad Zancanaro converted a rebound in front of the net to again deadlock the two teams.
Crusco got the game-winner on a shot from the left faceoff circle that was ripped over Fields’ shoulder.
Pederson doubled the margin to make it, 5-3, at 11:16 of the third with a slapshot from the point in which Fields might have been screened by his own teammate.
Fields was pulled for an extra attacker at the 18:40 mark, but to no avail.