NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — If there’s one building that the Boston College Eagles do not like, it’s Merrimack’s Volpe Center. Having lost three of the four games at the Warriors’ home and registering a loss in each of the last four seasons, the nation’s second-ranked team was hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself.
Leaving nothing to chance, the Eagles (6-0-0, 3-0-1 HEA) came out flying, scoring three times in the first nine minutes and stifling the Merrimack offensive attack throughout the game en route to a 7-0 blowout victory Tuesday in Hockey East play, sending the near-capacity crowd of 2,914 at the Volpe Center home disappointed.
“The jump we had in the first period and scoring the three goals put Merrimack back it their heels,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “Coming up on the bus, we were talking about Merrimack’s good start this year — beating BU and tying New Hampshire, two of the tougher teams in our conference. We were ready for a really difficult contest.”
During the Eagles’ recent troubles at Merrimack, the one thing missing for each game was senior goaltender Tim Kelleher. Kelleher entered Thursday’s action with a perfect 3-0-0 record against the Warriors and was the goalie of choice to make his first career start at the Volpe. He stopped all 13 shots he faced to improve that record and added his sixth career shutout — the second against Merrimack.
“Merrimack is a scary team [at home],” said Kelleher. “But we were ready for this game.”
Besides the need and desire to beat Merrimack on the road for a piece of revenge, the Eagles were also looking to avenge the only blemish of their season, a 3-3 tie in their last game out against Notre Dame.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth from the Notre Dame game,” said Kelleher, who did not play against Notre Dame as part of a goaltending rotation with fellow tender Matti Kaltiainen. “We didn’t play as well as we could have and we wanted to get back in the ‘W’ column.”
It took the Eagles just 3:27 to get going offensively as the dynamic brother duo of Ben and Patrick Eaves connected for the game’s first goal. With Patrick Eaves camped in front, Ben fed a perfect pass from the right corner that his younger brother buried for his seventh goal in as many games this season.
It was a welcome start for York, not only to score early, but also to see Ben Eaves, who missed the last three games a recurring rib injury, back in the scoring column.
“It was great to have Ben Eaves back in the lineup,” said York, with a grin. “It certainly gives us an added dimension both five-on-five and on
special teams. And when he scores, it make coach feel pretty good too.”
At 7:34, the Eagles connected again, this time on the power play as both Brett Peterson and Ned Havern set a perfect screen in front of Merrimack goalie Joe Exter (22 saves). That allowed Andrew Alberts’ soft wrister from the right point to float inside the left post for a 2-0 lead.
Before the halfway point of the first, the Eagles extended the lead on Justin Dziama’s first goal of the season. He stole the puck at the blueline, walked in on a three-on-two and caught Exter moving from the post, burying a snap shot for a 3-0 lead.
Though the Merrimack attack would benefit from three power plays in the second period, it still couldn’t muster much offense on the BC net. Through two periods the Warriors put only 10 shots on the Eagles net, few, if any, of the testing variety.
BC on the other hand added 10 shots to its first-period 16, and in that, found a goal from the stick of Peterson to extend the lead to 4-0.
“With a three-goal lead you’re never really sure,” said York. “So when Brett Peterson got that fourth one, that was important.”
If Merrimack had any thoughts of posting a comeback, that was snuffed out early in the third. Ryan Murphy’s second goal of the season came off a perfect feed in front from Ty Hennes.
It was that type of goal — a man alone in the slot — that really got under the skin of Merrimack coach Chris Serino.
“We were out of position left and right,” said Serino of a defensive zone coverage that for parts of the game didn’t exist. “We gave up three goals to a guy right in the slot. You can’t give a team like this those kinds of chances.”
Ben Eaves added his second goal of the year at 4:26 of the third, signaling the end of the night for Exter. He was replaced by Casey Guenther (eight saves), who made his first career appearance. Guenther surrendered the game’s final goal to Hennes, a power play tally with 7:41 to play.
The seven-goal victory was the largest for BC since an 8-0 victory over Providence on Feb. 11, 2000. It was the largest margin in a road game since Feb. 2, 1990 when they posted a 10-1 victory on the very same ice against Merrimack.
It was Merrimack’s worst beating on home ice in the Chris Serino era that began in 1998. Previously Merrimack lost to New Hampshire, 9-0, on Dec. 6, 1996 under then-head coach Ron Anderson.
With a light slate ahead, the Eagles will take a week off before returning to face currently-undefeated Providence on the road next Tuesday night. Merimack will return to action Saturday night traveling to Boston University for a rematch of a 5-3 Merrimack upset victory at the Volpe Center on Oct. 22.