NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — If Boston University wins yet another Beanpot championship Monday at the expense of arch-enemy Boston College, the Warriors can share in a little bit of the glory.
After all, it will have been Merrimack that sent the high-flying second-ranked Eagles into their annual rite of February final battered and bruised following Thursday night’s 4-4 Hockey East overtime slugfest at Lawler Arena.
Eagles forwards Tony Voce, Ryan Shannon and Brian Boyle all finished the night nursing obvious injuries, while plenty of Warriors were feeling the sting of some of the teeth-rattling checks — some legal, many not — being delivered.
Senior Tim Reidy twice pulled the Warriors (9-16-4, 4-11-4 HEA) even with unassisted goals, including his 10th of the season with 10:29 left in regulation off a timely turnover inside the BC zone that he buried over the blocker of goalie Matti Kaltiainen for the final goal of the evening.
“We were happy to get a point from BC,” said Reidy, who scored two goals for the fourth time this season, “but two points would have been a lot better. To come back was good and stay in the game. We worked hard on that all week, and it showed up out there.”
Due to a rash of both major and nagging injuries, Merrimack head coach Chris Serino has been unable to practice his club at full speed for weeks, and it’s been obvious on game day. Entering last night, the Warriors amassed just a 1-6 record over the last four weeks, making their second tie against the Eagles this season that much sweeter.
“I was proud of the way we worked tonight,” Serino said. “We didn’t do everything right, but we played very hard. We played physical, something we haven’t been able to do because we’ve been so banged up.”
Before suffering a right shoulder bruise midway through the third period, Voce scored twice for the Eagles, including one of his club’s two power-play goals in the second.
“We expect to win every game, though they’ve been playing well lately,” said Voce, who now leads the Eagles in goals with 20. “We knew it was going to be a battle, but you never are happy with a tie game when you’re leading 3-1.”
If not for rookie goalie Jim Healey’s left pad, BC (20-3-4, 12-1-3) likely would have built a four-goal lead before Merrimack had even recorded its first shot.
Healey flashed the hefty legging four times to stuff three magnificent scoring opportunities for Voce and another by freshman Joe Rooney during the game’s opening nine minutes. The first save on Voce, though, was the emerging No. 1 netminder’s best of the night. The Eagles’ leading scorer sent in alone at the Warriors blueline on a pretty pass from the right boards by center Stephen Gionta.
Voce refused to let a fourth chance go to waste, however. Slipping behind a pair of Merrimack defenders who collided at center ice, the league’s goal leader skated right down the middle of the ice for what resembled a penalty shot before going 5-hole on Healey at 12:22.
Unlike the closely-checked first period, the second proved wide open thanks to each club’s power-play units.
Merrimack senior Steve Crusco tied the game at 1-1 with his ninth goal and second straight with the man advantage at 8:41. But the deadlock lasted all of 40 seconds when Voce picked the short-side top corner on Healey.
Less than three minutes later, BC sophomore Patrick Eaves made it 3-1 with a similar top-shelf power-play goal following a mini melee started by Merrimack senior Jeremy Wilson’s charge on Kaltiainen.
Trailing by two, yet still inspired by Wilson’s risky move, the Warriors tied the score again before intermission on a power-play goal by a net-crashing Marco Rosa and even-strength under-the-crossbar backhander from Reidy just 48 seconds apart.
BC senior Ty Hennes gave the visitors back the lead 2:23 into the third with his first goal of the year, again picking the top corner on Healey, who posted a career-high 41 saves. That held up until Reidy intercepted an errant Brent Peterson pass inside the BC zone to walk in alone on Kaltiainen (22 saves) at 9:31.
“It was a battle,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Merrimack played hard and physical, and the kid played well in goal. There were a lot of collisions in the small rink, but I thought we had plenty of outstanding chances [to win], especially in overtime.”