BOSTON, Mass. — For years, one of Boston University coach Jack Parkers mantras has been win the third period and win the game.
Coming into tonight the Terriers were 0-5-1 in games that were tied after two, but they certainly meditated effectively on the old mantra tonight.
Stalemated in a 1-1 game through 40 minutes, BU scored three times in the third period to win 4-1 in front of 4,987 at Agganis Arena. Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist while Matt Gilroy added a pair of helpers for the victors, and Chris Higgins notched the game-winner on a blind backhander between his legs. Matt Jones scored his team-best 12th goal in a losing effort for the Warriors.
I just told [Merrimack coach] Mark [Dennehy] that this was the best home game weve played this year, Parker said. It was an excellent effort, start to finish. We didnt have too much to show for the first two periods”tie game, right where Merrimack would want us”but then our power play came alive again with two big goals. Getting three goals in the third period is nice. Getting a win in our own building in the third period was huge.
Dennehy was unusually terse following the frustrating loss. Asked for general comments about the game, he simply said, You guys were there; you saw it. After several other questions yielded more brusque replies, he finally made a more detailed observation about the game.
Three of their goals were in our crease. You have to outwork the opponent. It was just work, effort, desire. That was it. 1-1 game going into the third period at BU”thats a good road game. You just cant get outworked when it matters. Thats the red zone.
BU played well early on, only to have Merrimack take the lead at 5:40 of the first period. Defenseman Adam Ross fired a slapshot from the left point through traffic, and BU netminder Brett Bennett made a pad save, only to leave a juicy rebound for Matt Jones, who buried it handily.
Fourth-liner Craig Sanders got a roar from the crowd at 8:50 when he leveled Ross with a big hit. Shorthanded, BU almost tied it at 14:15 when Matt Gilroy rushed in on the right wing and crossed to Pete MacArthur who dove to redirect it but couldnt score.
The Terriers got the equalizer at 15:38. After a scramble in front of the Warrior net, Gilroy shot it from the right-wing faceoff circle. Brandon Yip took a whack at it, and somehow the puck had eyes and found its way through a few players and into the net.
The second period was tepid, as the two teams combined for just nine shots. The closest call was a Bonino shot that ticked a post at 12:40.
A pair of Terrier power plays made the difference in the third, starting with Higginss goal at 5:12. It was on the power play; we had some good movement, Higgins said. Pete MacArthur made a nice play, touched it to me. I had some pressure on me, so I just threw it to the goal through my legs, and luckily it got through there.
Less than four minutes later, the Terriers got some insurance on the next power play. Colby Cohen blasted a slapper from the left point. Merrimack goalie Andrew Brathwaite made the initial save, but Colin Wilson tapped in the rebound.
I couldnt single out one individual guy from the first to fourth lines, Parker said. Everybody played well.
At 13:43, Bonino rounded out the scoring on another rebound conversion. Brathwaite made the first save but couldnt cover the puck with traffic in front of him. Bonino outfought Brandon Sadlowski for the puck and flipped it in high.
The whole week Coach Bavis was talking about going to the net hard, Bonino said. Weve been tied a lot going into the third this year, so this was symbolic of our efforts all week. It was good to get a goal like that late in the game to seal it off.
Bavis ran the teams practice all week with Parker and Associate Coach David Quinn sidelined with the flu.
Mike Bavis did a great job this week getting this team ready to play mentally as well as any technical things that we had to follow up about, Parker said. He told Quinn and I not to show up till Monday night.
BU (8-13-4, 7-8-3) plays archrival Boston College in the Beanpots opening round on Monday night. The Terriers will be shooting for their 14th straight appearance in the Beanpot Championship game.
I think it wouldve been discouraging not to get this win no matter what was up next, Parker said. I was happy that after the debacle in the third period last week that they could put that behind them and play well this week.
I just think these guys mightve gotten fed up with what theyve done at home this year so far. They seemed much more ready to tonight, much more ready to play in the third period.
Its a huge confidence booster for us, Higgins said. People are trying to write us off now, but the 27 guys in the locker room know that when we play hard, we can make things happen.
While BU gets ready to make things happen in another Beanpot, Merrimack (10-12-2, 4-12-1) is back on action on Saturday night, hosting the red-hot Providence Friars.