CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — In any sport it’s difficult to string together wins, but this season for the Boston College Eagles, winning two games in a row has been nearly impossible for the perennial powerhouse.
So there’s little surprise that the Eagles were celebrating their 4-1 victory over Merrimack on Wednesday night, giving the club back-to-back wins for the first time since a weekend sweep of Wisconsin on October 27 and 28, 2006 — a span of 74 days.
“The back-to-back wins are a big step for our confidence,” said BC senior defenseman Mike Brennan, who helped set up the Eagles first goal of the night and played one of his better games on the blueline. “I think we’re in the right direction … to keep it rolling.”
Ten different Eagles recorded points in Wednesday’s game and goaltender Cory Schneider, though called upon to make just 21 saves, came up big when needed, particularly in the third period when Merrimack was the beneficiary of four power plays.
“As our team has ebbed and flowed, [Schneider] has been even keel in giving us a great effort in goal,” said Eagles head coach Jerry York.
York particularly noted Schneider’s involvement in the penalty kill, which on Wednesday stopped all six Merrimack power-play opportunities. BC has allowed just one goal in its last 14 man-down situations, which currently includes 12 consecutive kills.
“We’ve been consistently good all year on the penalty kill and tonight was just an example of that,” said York.
For the Warriors, the lack of production for the power play — and the offense in general — was a point of frustration for head coach Mark Dennehy.
“We didn’t execute,” said Dennehy, who said he was looking forward to facing his alma mater on Wednesday because of the way his team has played over the last ten days. “We didn’t execute on the power play. We didn’t complete the simple five-foot pass. The game was in the balance many times and the guys just didn’t execute.”
Though Merrimack held a slight lead in shots in the opening period, 10-9, it was all Boston College on the scoreboard.
Joe Rooney opened the scoring at 5:05 when the Warriors defense left him all alone in the left slot. Benn Ferriero’s pass across the zone found Rooney, who wristed a hard shot over Merrimack goaltender Patrick Watson’s (17 saves) glove and just under the crossbar.
The Eagles would have extended the lead seconds later if not for a stellar right pad save by Watson. Brock Bradford took a pass from Dan Bertram and seemingly had the entire net to shoot at, until Watson’s extended right leg stonewalled the sophomore.
Penalties late in the frame, though, got Merrimack in trouble and at 17:35, Brian O’Hanley beat Watson from the right point during a five-on-three advantage. It was O’Hanley first goal in more than a year, his last coming December 30, 2005 in a 3-3 tie against Ferris State at the annual Denver Cup.
In the second, BC again used the power play to its advantage, this time using players who a week ago played opposite one another. Bertram, who last week helped lead Canada to the World Junior Championship title, found Nathan Gerbe, a member of Team USA’s bronze medal-winning club, wide open at the right post for the 3-0 BC lead. Canada defeated the U.S. in the tournament’s semifinals.
After being outshot, 8-2, in the second period, Merrimack showed signs of life in the third and with 7:28 remaining finally got on the scoreboard. Sophomore Chris Kane sprang junior Carmen Posteraro for a breakaway, and Posteraro barely got enough wood on the puck to push it past Schneider. It was the first career goal for Posteraro.
There was further chances for the Warriors to pull closer when BC senior Brian Boyle took an undisciplined double minor for contact-to-the-head roughing and unsportsmanlike contact with 5:57 remaining. But luckily for Boyle, his club rallied to kill both penalties, and a Ferriero goal with 1:00 remaining accounted for the 4-1 final.
The victory moved Boston College (11-6-1 , 7-4-1 Hockey East) into sole possession of second place in Hockey East, two points ahead of third-place Maine. The Black Bears still have two games in hand on the Eagles.
Merrimack drops to 3-15-2 (3-10-0 Hockey East) and remains tied for ninth place with Massachusetts-Lowell.
The two clubs will return to action on Friday night for the back end of the home-and-home series at Merrimack .