NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — On an evening when the collegiate football championship was being decided, Boston College defeated Merrimack in the Attrition Bowl, 4-1.
With the lineups depleted by injury, illness and representation in the World Junior Championship, the Eagles rallied from a first-period 1-0 deficit with goals by Matt Greene, Mike Brennan, Chris Collins and Ryan Shannon to move into a three-way tie for second place in Hockey East. Boston College (10-3-3, 5-1-3) is now tied with Maine and New Hampshire, three points behind Boston University.
While injuries inflicted Merrimack’s attrition, BC’s came from goaltender Cory Schneider’s selection to Team USA as well as the flu racing through the Eagle squad. The illness felled Stephen Gionta, knocked Patrick Eaves out as a late scratch and limited John Adams to first-period action after which he did not return.
In the resulting competition between patchwork lines, the Eagles showed why they are ranked third in the country, outshooting Merrimack, 30-19, for the game and generating more of the quality opportunities.
“It’s a significant victory for us in the fact that it’s on the road, it’s a Hockey East victory and it’s a very difficult barn for us to play in,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Over the years, we’ve really struggled to get wins up here. It’s difficult to play here.”
The loss puts Merrimack (8-13-2, 1-9-1) in a more precarious position in the Hockey East standings, where the Warriors lead last-place Massachusetts-Lowell by only a single point while giving the River Hawks four games in hand.
Making matters worse for coach Chris Serino was the way his team played after having considerable success of late, posting a 5-3-2 record in its previous 10 contests.
“I’m very disappointed in the fact that in our own building they outworked us,” he said. “They beat us to a lot of loose pucks. They’re a skilled team. They’re going to control play a lot, but I thought they played a lot harder than we did.
“That was the big difference in the game. We played too soft against them. We can’t play that way against them and win.
“The fact that they outworked us is [unacceptable]. It doesn’t take a lot of talent to do that. It doesn’t take a lot of talent to jump on loose pucks and play guys straight up one-on-one playing defense. We didn’t do a very good job of that. That’s the part that disappoints me the most.”
Boston College would hold an 8-4 first-period shot advantage despite incurring the lone shorthanded situation, but still found itself trailing going into the intermission as Merrimack played its best 20 minutes of the game.
Seconds after Justin Mills hit the post, Brendon Clark scored from the doorstep on a rebound of a Rob LaLonde shot. It was the senior’s first goal of the season and the 11th of his career.
At 10:38 of the second period the Eagles finally got on the board. Chris Collins shot from inside the left faceoff circle and Matt Greene shoveled the rebound into the open net from the right post. It was the freshman’s second collegiate goal.
The Eagles grabbed the lead for good five minutes later. Defenseman Mike Brennan raced with the puck into the offensive zone and from just inside the right faceoff circle beat Healey far side. Justin Greene, brother to Matt and playing in his first collegiate game, assisted on the goal.
Seconds later, Ryan Murphy had a chance to drive a stake in the Warriors’ hearts, but couldn’t convert his breakaway attempt.
The period ended with a 14-5 BC shot disparity and the Eagles holding a significant territorial advantage.
A power-play goal by Chris Collins at 4:50 of the third period took the wind out of the Merrimack sails, coming just two seconds before the penalty was to expire. Collins’ centering pass from behind the net deflected in off Healey’s own stick for a goal out of every netminder’s nightmares.
After then trading unsuccessful power plays, the Eagles put the nail in the coffin with a man advantage goal at 16:03. Ryan Shannon shot from the point through traffic and beat Healey five-hole.
The two teams meet again this Saturday at Merrimack.