CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — When Boston College defenseman Tim Filangieri won his team’s weekly shootout, few knew that it was a foreshadowing of good things to come.
Filangieri scored two of BC’s three goals in a 3-0 victory over Merrimack Saturday, all of which came as a big surprise to head coach Jerry York.
“He’s a defensive defenseman,” said York. “He’s strong but definitely defensive from a player’s perspective. It’s an extra bonus when he scores goals.”
Filangieri’s goals, the first two of his collegiate career, were perfectly timed for the Eagles as the team struggled all game to generate quality scoring chances, despite outshooting Merrimack 39-16.
“It was a battle,” said York. “We had a lot of shots on goal, but it was tough to get goals.”
According to the rookie Filangieri, his offensive success comes as a result of the BC coaching staff’s prodding for the defensemen to join the offensive rush.
“The coaches have been harping on us to jump into the play,” said Filangieri, whose last multi-goal game came in the playoffs last year when he was playing for Waterloo. “They want us to make it a 4-on-3 instead of a 3-on-3, or a 3-on-2 instead of a 2-on-2.”
On his first goal, which gave BC a 2-0 lead, the BC defense listened to their coaches. Both Filangieri and fellow blueliner Mike Brennan jumped into a play that resulted on a 3-on-1 for the Eagles. Brennan’s initial shot was saved by the Merrimack netminder, but the rebound bounced onto Filangieri’s stick, allowing him to bury the puck into an empty net.
“I picked my head up and saw what number it was. I saw it was Mike Brennan,” said Filangieri of the play. “I wondered if I should even join the rush, but I saw no danger and next thing I knew it was a (3-on-1).”
His second goal was less dramatic, coming late in the third period on a wrist shot from the left point that evaded all the traffic in front of the net and found room between goalie Jim Healey’s pads. The marker, which came with 7:06 remaining, accounted for the 3-0 final.
In the other net, BC’s Cory Schneider earned his first shutout of the season. Of the 16 saves he was forced to make, few were quality chances, as the BC defense was able to stifle Merrimack for much of the game.
BC took control of the game early, scoring twice in the opening frame and putting the Warrior defense back on its heels.
Dan Bertram got the Eagles on the board at 5:09. He swatted a loose puck out of the air after Brock Bradford had forced a turnover behind the net. When Bradford and the Merrimack defender collided, the puck bounced perfectly to the stick of Bertram, who batted it hip-level past Healey for the 1-0 lead.
There was question after the goal of whether or not the puck was above the crossbar when Bradford made contact. The Jumbotrons at either end of Conte Forum appeared to show Bradford’s stick was at his shoulder level when the puck made contact. Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy tried to appeal to referee Jeff Bunyon, but to no avail.
“I always hated the Jumbotron. It was never a friend of defensemen or referees,” said Dennehy, who played defense for Boston College in the early 1990s. “The only time I was ever on the Jumbotron was when I was getting toe dragged.”
Still, Dennehy wouldn’t concede that the call was correct.
“Anyone in the building saw [the play],” Dennehy said, leaving it at that.
Filangieri added his first career goal from Brennan and Andrew Orpik at 16:42 of the first giving BC the 2-0 lead through one, a period in which BC outshot the Warriors 16-3.
In the second, the pace of play slowed considerably. Neither team mustered offensive chances, and both clubs were scoreless on the power play. Despite outshooting Merrimack 11-5 in the frame and 27-8 through two, BC still held only a 2-0 lead.
If there was any question whether or not Merrimack would muster a comeback, that was answered midway through the third with Filangieri’s second of the game. From there, the BC defense was able to kill three late penalties and earn both the victory and the shutout. It was the first shutout for the Eagles since January 28, 2005, a 6-0 victory over Massachusetts, and the first against Merrimack since January 9, 2004.
The win improves BC to 5-1-1 in Hockey East play, 6-3-1 overall.
Merrimack still is searching for its first league win (0-5-0 Hockey East, 3-7-0 overall) but according to Dennehy, his team is frustratingly close to breaking through.
“These guys don’t realize how close they are,” said Dennehy. “You can be an inch away, but if you never close that gap, you’re still a million miles.”
Merrimack will get another crack at breaking into the win column on Tuesday night when they travel to New Hampshire.
BC remains idle until next weekend when it faces arch-rival Boston University in a home-and-home series beginning Friday at home.