CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The scoreboard at the end of Fridays game between Boston College and Merrimack may have read 3-3 when the overtime period concluded, but for the Warriors, it sure felt like a win.
Merrimack, which has not won at Boston College since October 31, 1997, and had been outscored by the Eagles 11-4 in two games already this season, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, fell behind, 3-2, late in the second, but rallied to tie and even had ample opportunities to beat the nationally-ranked Eagles.
Merrimack goaltender Patrick Watson made 41 saves after being pulled in his first two starts of the year against BC, while right wing Matt Jones scored his third and fourth goals of the season to match his total from last season.
“To take a point off a team the caliber of Boston College at home is a good step for our program,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, who was proud of his team for not wilting when they fell behind late in the second. “One of the things we haven’t done [this year] is climb back in it.
“Our young players need to learn [how to comeback] and the way you learn is by doing it. It’s on the job training.”
The comeback nearly was derailed before it began as BC, already leading 3-2, appeared to have scored a fourth goal at 5:47 of the third. As the fans celebrated, though, referee Tom Quinn called over the goal judge to discuss the play and quickly thereafter ruled no goal.
“[The referee] said that the goal judge said the puck stayed on the line and went right across the whole line,” said BC coach Jerry York. “The players seemed to celebrate. They thought it went in.”
The Warriors hung in the game, staved off the BC attack for the next seven minutes, and then capitalized on the power play when Jones scores his second goal of the night with 7:44 remaining.
From there, though, Merrimack was hardly in the clear as a parade to the penalty box led to an extended five-on-three man advantage for the Eagles. The Warrior penalty kill, which had allowed two power play goals in the second and a third goal as a penalty expired, stayed strong, killing the penalties to keep the game deadlocked.
“I thought our team did a good job killing penalties in the third,” said Dennehy.
The first period was all Eagles offensively, with BC holding a 16-7 lead in shots, but thanks to some not-so-fortunate bounces for the hosts, it was Merrimack that held a 1-0 lead.
BC hit two pipes in the period, Nathan Gerbe at the 11 minute mark and Andrew Orpik at 18:05. Watson also stopped two odd-man rushes, Benn Ferriero shorthanded at 16:30 and Joe Whitney at 17:50.
Sandwiched between all of that was a power play goal by Jones at 17:02. Camped out at the left post, the sophomore was able to corral a lose rebound and lift the puck over fallen BC goaltender John Muse (21 saves) to give the Warriors a 1-0 advantage, their first lead in three games against the Eagles this season.
If there was any concern on the part of the Eagles, it heightened early in the second when Merrimack extended its lead. Francois Ouimet was left all alone in the slot and buried a pass from linemate Kurtis Allen at 5:09 to give the Warriors a 2-0 advantage.
As the period wore on, the frustration for the Eagles continued with quality scoring attempts continuously bouncing wide of the net. However, in the final six minutes of the frame, things suddenly turned.
On the power play, rookie Brian Gibbons buried a puck past Watson after Orpik’s shot deflected perfectly to Gibbons’ stick. Just 29 seconds later, Merrimack’s Grant Farrell was assessed a five-minute major for hitting from behind and a game misconduct, and BC quickly capitalized, first tying the game then taking the lead.
Ben Smith buried the first goal at 17:07, finding space in front to one-time home a Gerbe pass. With 29.4 seconds left to play, just as the major penalty expired, Anthony Aiello capitalized on a scrambling Warrior defense, wristing a puck through traffic and over the Watsons right shoulder to give the Eagles their first lead of the night heading into the third.
After Merrimack knotted the game in the third, both teams were able to muster quality scoring chances in overtime. BC had the best of it early as Ferriero lifted a shot over the goal on a 2-on-1 and Smith was stonewalled on a shot from the slot when Watson flashed his left pad.
The Warriors turned the momentum and, after a BC turnover, had the best chance to win the game. Jones, in a bid for the hat trick, was stuffed on a breakaway and linemate Chris Barton had an open net to bury the winner, but shot the puck wide.
The tie is only the second point that Merrimack has earned at Kelley Rink in the last decade. Merrimack also earned a 3-3 stalemate on November 18, 2003.
Both teams return to action on Saturday as BC travels to New Hampshire for a rematch of last years Hockey East Championship game, while Merrimack returns home to face Vermont.