BOSTON, Mass. — Thirteen was the lucky number for No. 5 Boston University tonight.
The Terriers beat Merrimack for the 13th time in a row, led by a three point effort from Nick Bonino, No. 13 for the Terriers.
Brandon Yip scored twice and Kieran Millan stopped 23 of 25 shots for BU (3-0-0), as the Terriers took a 5-2 decision over the Warriors (1-1-0) in the first Hockey East game for both teams. Chris Barton scored both Merrimack goals in front of a crowd of 5,213 at Agganis Arena.
BU dominated the first half of both the first and second period, holding Merrimack almost shotless in both cases. However, plentiful power plays for both teams seemed to help the Warriors more than their hosts, ultimately allowing the visitors to gain some momentum and make a game of it.
I thought we were dominating the game for a while — not just because we were up by a few goals but because we were really doing a good job of possessing the puck and keeping them away from our net, Terrier coach Jack Parker said. And then the penalty killers came in and they did a much better job than we did on special teams. We had more goals, but they frustrated us, blocked a lot of shots and played well in front of their goaltender — kept it real simple.
If it wasnt for the special teams, it wouldve been a much easier game. That was not a 5-2 game; it was a much more difficult game than that, thats for sure.
Warrior coach Mark Dennehy was disappointed with his teams lackluster play early. That teams good enough; they dont need our help, Dennehy said. The first ten minutes we stood around and watched. I didnt think we did a good job at all of executing our game plan at all throughout the game. We scraped and clawed, got ourselves back in the game, and then, a couple breakdowns.
The Terriers were swarming early and took a 1-0 lead at 1:22. Freshman Corey Trivino carried the puck in on the right-wing side and flipped a backhanded pass to co-captain John McCarthy in the slot. The seniors shot appeared to be deflected, and Vinny Saponari buried the loose puck for his first collegiate goal.
BU made it 2-0 on a power-play goal at 7:07. From the left point, co-captain Matt Gilroy fed it to Yip skating toward him from the left-wing faceoff circle. Yip curled toward the net and fired a high wrister past Merrimack goalie Andrew Braithwaite.
Merrimack didnt get their first shot until 10:30. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk countered with a pair of chances for the Terriers around the 14-minute mark. But the Warriors really got things going with a power play at 17:40. They had several chances, most notably when Barton passed across the crease to Joe Cucci, forcing BU freshman goalie Millan to go post to post for the nice save.
Merrimack seemed to go back to sleep after the intermission. Shorthanded, BU made it 3-0 at 3:30 of period two, thanks mainly to a great individual effort by Bonino to win a battle with two defenders for the puck at center ice before racing up the right wing to set up Yip for the goal.
Nicky made a good play on the boards, Yip said. I think that Shatty or Colby was rushing up, and I saw an opening to try and join the rush. I kind of stayed in the middle; I dont know if he faked the shot or something, but he drew the goalie to him, slid it to me for the open net. It was pretty easy.
Again, though, Merrimack seemed to do a better job of dealing with the constant penalties than BU did. Although the Warriors failed to score on a lengthy five-on-three starting at 13:27, they built momentum and scored shortly after BU got back to full strength. Pat Bowen took a shot from the right point, and sophomore Barton collected the rebound in the slot before wheeling to fire a high shot past Millan.
Less than three minutes later, Barton made it a 3-2 game when Merrimack got an overdue power-play goal. Karl Stollery took a shot from the point, and Barton knocked in a rebound on Millans glove side.
Parker wondered how his team would react after seeing the three-goal lead nearly dissipate, and he had every reason to be pleased with his teams third period. BUs fourth line chipped in with a critical goal at 6:19, keyed off of a rush by winger Joe Pereira up the left wing. He got the puck to the net, where Braitwaite made the initial save before Luke Popko poked the rebound home.
That was the backbreaker, Dennehy said. Thats one a couple of our guys would like back because it was a pretty innocuous play.
Just over a minute later, on what felt like the umpteenth power play of the night, BU put the game away with the fifth goal. Bonino teed up a shot for Gilroy at the point, and that was that.
Cucci had a few good chances for Merrimack as the period progressed, but the game was basically over. Bonino narrowly missed a fourth point when he clanged a shot off a post at 16:15, but he still has six points in the seasons first three games.
BU travels to No. 6 New Hampshire for a Sunday afternoon game, while Merrimack plays at Army on Saturday night. The Terriers are expected to continue their rotation of freshmen goaltenders with Grant Rollheiser between the pipes.