CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Fridays game between Merrimack and No. 5 Boston College began with plenty of
unanswered questions. It didnt take long, though, for those answers to become clear.
BC entered the night with just one win in its first four games, though they had faced stiff competition in nationally-ranked Michigan and North Dakota. Merrimack came in undefeated at 3-0-0, but had faced only CHA members Niagara and Bemidji State.
If anyone wondered if BC was possibly over-ranked or Merrimack was under-ranked, that question was answered in the form of 7-1 drubbing that the Eagles handed the Warriors to open the two-game home-and-home series.
The two clubs will face off again on Sunday afternoon at Merrimack for the series back end.
We wanted to play at a high pace, said BC head coach Jerry York. We hadnt reached that point thus far this season. We accomplished that tonight.
The Eagles got production from its three top lines while junior Nathan Gerbe and rookie Joe Whitney both finished the night with two goals and two assists a piece.
Merrimack, on the other hand, struggled from the get go unable to withstand the massive BC attack in the opening minutes of play.
When asked to comment on his teams play, Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy summed his feelings up in one word.
Speechless, said the third-year bench boss of his clubs performance. Early in the season, youre hoping to put your team in adverse situation, because thats what a college hockey season is about: ebb and flow.
We didnt handle the adversity [tonight] of not starting the way we wanted to.
That slow start included two early BC goals that were the result of bad bounces.
The first came at the 8:26 mark when Gerbes one-timed shot from the left faceoff dot that deflected off the skate of a Merrimack defender and through the legs of starting goaltender Patrick Watson.
That lead grew to two when a Dan Bertram shot from the left side was blocked, bounced wide of the cage and ricocheted off the backboard and headed back to towards the goal. It appeared Watson would corral the puck for a whistle, but missed it entirely giving Matt Greene a wide open net to pot his first goal of the season at 12:11.
One puck goes off the skate, the other comes off the end board and right by Pat, said Dennehy. I think we kind of imploded from there.
Before the period ended, the Eagles struck again, this time on the power play. Gerbes shot from the right faceoff circle was blocked, deflected to the left circle and the stick of Whitney. He promptly fired the puck into the open net for his second goal of his freshman campaign.
In the second, the Eagles showed no sign of letting off the gas, adding three more goals to blow the game wide open.
Gerbe scored his second of the night roofing a highlight-reel shot as he cut to the right post at 4:44. That goal spelled the end of the night for Watson (15 saves), who was replaced by Andrew Braithwaite (12 saves).
BC freshman Brian Gibbons then got into the action finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play with Ben Smith and Whitney at 14:33. And right before the period ended, junior Anthony Aiello fired a shot that deflected off rookie Ryan Hayes on into the net for his first career goal and a 6-0 BC lead through two.
In the third, Merrimack would finally end the shutout bid for BC rookie goaltender John Muse (18 saves), as Rob Ricci blasted home a shot from the slot on the power play at 5:37. Whitney would answer for Boston College at 8:26 to account for the 7-1 final.
For both coaches, assessing their teams performance was somewhat simple. York was happy to see his club finally break out offensively and live up to the ability that earned it the No. 2 preseason ranking in the national poll.
For Merrimacks Dennehy, his club realizes that facing a top-level opponent provides plenty of learning opportunities.
We dont practice again BC, so its hard to prepare for that speed unless youve seen it first hand, Dennehy said. That was our first taste of it. Obviously it wasnt a good taste.