BOSTON — For the first 51 minutes, it was easy to foresee another tough-luck loss for BU, complete with Terrier Coach Jack Parker saying, “They don’t add up the yardage; they add up the score.”
Fortunately for the Terriers, a five-minute major on Rob Ricci for hitting from behind set the stage for two power-play goals that turned a 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 advantage with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Ultimately, No. 20 BU won, 4-2, in front of a vacation-depleted crowd of 5,406 at Agganis Arena, as freshman Brandon Yip notched a goal and an assist for the victors. Bryan “Boomer” Ewing got the tying goal, and Kevin Schaeffer added the game-winner-assisted by co-captain David Van Der Gulik, playing impressively (eight shots) in his first game of the season after being sidelined by injuries throughout the first semester.
Justin Mills scored both goals for the tenacious Warriors, while Jim Healey contributed a yeoman’s effort in the net for the visitors, making 44 saves.
“I thought we played real well,” Parker said. “We really got after them pretty good and got a lot of opportunities. The goaltender played great for them, and we missed some chances but we kept after it.
“Nice to have Van der Gulik back. That line [seniors Brad Zancanaro, John Laliberte, and Van der Gulik] played really well; they had a bunch of chances. It’s hard to believe that we could think we dodged a bullet when we got 48 shots, but it easily could’ve gone the other way, and that’s exactly how they beat UNH. So they were playing a perfect road game, and we didn’t let them finish it off, which was nice.”
“I thought our guys played hard, coming off a 20-day layoff like that,” first-year Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “Again, I’ve been really thrilled with the effort of our players, coming into the program. There haven’t been too many games where they haven’t emptied the tank, and as a coach that’s really humbling. That’s all you can ask. We took too many penalties: Take too many penalties against a good team and you give up goals. I thought our goaltending was excellent; our goaltending has been excellent all year.”
The first period was rather tepid with minimal chances for either team. Just a minute and change after Rob Ricci threatened to give the visitors the lead on a point-blank power-play attempt, Merrimack got the game’s first goal at 11:36. Scott Drewicki took a shot from the right point, and Justin Mills knocked in the rebound, tripping over Terrier goalie John Curry in the process.
The second period featured much more action. Merrimack almost made it 2-0 at 1:40, when Jeff Royston lured Curry to one side of the net before passing toward John Goebel at the far post. It looked like it could be an easy tap-in, but a BU defender tied up Goebel.
At 7:56, BU tied it. Freshman Chris Higgins got the puck in the left-wing corner and nudged it to Peter MacArthur behind the goal. MacArthur fed a quick pass to Brandon Yip in the slot, and Yip’s shot rolled off of Healey’s arm and into the net.
Just 38 seconds later, though, Merrimack regained the lead. Warrior captain Brent Gough got the puck in the right-wing end and fed it to Ryan Sullivan at the right point. His wrister landed on the stick of Mills, who shot it past Curry from just outside the crease.
Van der Gulik had a terrific chance to tie it on a power play at 12:20, as a rebound bounced to him on Healey’s glove side with half of the net open. However, Healey regained position before Van der Gulik could settle it, giving the goalie time to make the save. Likewise, Zancanaro had a great chance on a rebound with about two seconds left in the period but couldn’t score.
Merrimack hung tough early in third period. Fourth-line winger Craig Sanders-playing just his second collegiate game-had a great bid off a Ryan Weston setup at 5:50, only to have Healey make the save.
“The Green Line of [Brian] McGuirk, Weston, and Sanders played very, very well,” Parker said. “They played with energy; they banged people. They got some good opportunities and didn’t spend much time in their zone.”
On the other end, Curry made a flailing glove save on Derek Pallardy’s backhander at 6:58 to keep BU in it.
At 11:04, Ricci got called for the five-minute major for hitting from behind. Though not as blatant as some earlier questionable hits, it was in keeping with similar calls under the new emphasis on this rule. Dennehy went nuts behind the Warrior bench but seemed contrite afterwards.
“I’d rather not talk about the officiating,” Dennehy said. “I’m disappointed in my actions: I tell my team to play with poise and to not let situations like that rattle them, and I’ve got my daughters behind me and I’m swearing like a truck driver. It all trickles down from the top, and if I maintain my poise maybe we kill those penalties. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
It took BU all of ten seconds to tie the game after the call and Dennehy’s angry reaction. Kenny Roche raced in on the left wing and crossed to Ewing crashing the net for the tap-in.
As the major wound down, BU finally got the go-ahead goal at 15:02. “Our power play was moving it pretty well tonight; we were trying to work it low, work it high.” Van der Gulik said. “I just kind of set myself up in the high slot, wound up for a shot and it went right on the guy’s knee pad. It went to Kev, and Kev sniped. I was just trying to get it through, and I was fortunate it went right to Kev.”
The shot appeared to hit the leg of a Warrior defender and then the post before going in.
“That’s how most of my goals go in,” Schaeffer said, chuckling. “I’ll definitely accept that: shoot for a shin pad and hope that it goes in. I think it was a shin guard. I’ll take it It felt very good; it’s kind of a monkey off my back. I haven’t been able to put up any points in a long stretch here.”
BU (7-7-2, 5-5-1 Hockey East) hosts Providence on Friday before traveling across town to Northeastern on Saturday, while Merrimack (4-11-2, 1-7-2) plays a home-and-home series with Massachusetts.