CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — No. 2 Boston College knew it had something to prove entering Friday’s game against Merrimack.
The Eagles, 3-0 losers last Saturday night at Northeastern, looked to prove that the loss was nothing more than an aberration. And thanks to a complete dominance of Merrimack in which the Eagles outshot the Warriors 41-14, BC glided to a 4-0 victory in front of 6,038 at Kelley Rink.
BC used two shorthanded goals, along with a stifling defense that limited Merrimack to less than a handful of grade ‘A’ chances, to secure the victory.
“We’ve tried to get back to basics over the past week and tried to re-establish why we were playing so well,” said BC captain Ben Eaves. Eaves, the Hockey Commissioners Association’s Player of the Month for December, notched one of the shorthanders. “We were slowly striding away from it (the solid play that left BC unbeaten in November and December) and I think we got it back tonight.”
“It was a terrific game for our team,” said BC coach Jerry York, who returned to the BC bench after missing the Northeastern game and eight total days with the flu. “Emotionally, we were right into it and technically I thought we were sound in all the different zones.”
Limiting BC’s shots to 14 made for a relatively easy night for goaltender Matti Kaltiainen, who picked up his third career shutout and first of the season. Kaltiainen hadn’t won a game since before the Christmas break after sitting out two games for a violation of team rules and then dropping last Saturday’s decision versus Northeastern.
The Boston College offense was paced by its top line that featured the return of Patrick Eaves from the World Junior Championships. Reunited with his brother Ben and winger Tony Voce, the trio combined for two tallies and were robbed on numerous other opportunities.
BC wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as immediately after a penalty expired to Ty Hennes, fourth-liner Justin Dziama walked in all alone on Merrimack goaltender Casey Guenther (37 saves). Dziama’s backhander snuck between the right arm and body of Guenther to give BC a 1-0 lead at 4:37 and Dziama his first goal of the season.
“I thought he played real well tonight,” said York of Dziama, who added a physical presence to his offensive breakthrough Friday. “He was solid, strong and physical. I thought he did a real nice job.”
Less than four minutes later, the aggressive BC penalty kill that stopped six Merrimack power plays struck for its first goal of the game. Patrick Eaves broke out of the zone with brother Ben and both accelerated to create a 2-on-1. Patrick Eaves slid a pass across to his brother that ticked off the elder Eaves’ skate before he swatted it into the open net.
“I was just trying to beat my guy up ice,” said Ben Eaves of his goal. “Patrick made a great pass and it hit my skate and got it up to my stick. It happened really fast and I was just lucky to tap that one in.”
Holding the 2-0 lead through one, it was up to the BC defense to dominate. Allowing just two shots in the opening period, the Eagles defense permitted 12 more the rest of the night, allowing the game to move forward on cruise control.
As pleasant as that might have been to the Eagles, it was equally painful for Merrimack coach Chris Serino.
“Thank God it’s over,” said Serino of an empty effort by his club in all facets. “We just got outplayed in every single phase of the game. There’s nothing I can take positive from this game. Absolutely nothing.”
After both teams were held scoreless in the second period, BC iced the game in the third adding two tallies. Voce, who entered the game tied for the nation’s goal-scoring lead with Michigan Tech’s Chris Conner, scored BC’s second shorthanded marker at 4:05, sliding a backhander between the legs of Guenther. Fourth-liner Adam Pineault scored his second of the season at 11:11 to close the scoring.
The loss, the second league loss in a row for Merrimack after last weekend’s non-league road sweep of Princeton, leaves the Warriors at 7-11-3 (2-8-3 Hockey East), and Serino searching for answers.
“We’re playing very tired right now and I don’t know why,” said Serino. “All I can do is watch the film and try to get some answers, but I don’t have any right now.”
BC improves to 14-3-3 (7-1-2 Hockey East) and jumps back into first place, one point ahead of Maine, which is idle from league play this weekend. The Eagles will not return to play until facing archrival Boston University in a home-and-home series next Friday and Saturday beginning at Kelley Rink.