BOSTON — When it came to the power play, there was a power outage tonight.
In a game that lacked flow due to a whopping 17 power plays–all of them unsuccessful–No. 1 Boston University tied the visiting Merrimack Warriors 1-1 in a chippy game in front of 5,172 at Agganis Arena. Terriers goalie Kieran Millan earned top star honors with 35 saves, while counterpart Joe Cannata stopped 32 shots for the Warriors.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “Obviously they come in undefeated; it’s going to take a lot, especially in their barn, to knock them off. I thought our guys weathered the storm early. It was back and forth at times, but it’s hard to get into a flow with all the special teams.”
Terriers coach Jack Parker agreed, referring to the game as “disjointed” due to all of the penalties.
“I thought both teams played hard and both goalies played great, but in general I don’t think it was a very well-executed game,” Parker said. “A lot of people were mishandling the puck. We seemed to be in a hurry tonight, and that caused us to have not as much smooth entry on the attack.”
BU had an early 5-2 edge in shots, but Merrimack ended up outshooting the Terriers by a 14-12 margin in the first period. There were few good scoring chances, however. On a four-on-three at 13:02, Merrimack star Stephane Da Costa had much of the net open, but misfired.
BU had a few good power-play chances early in the second, but finally scored during an even-strength situation at 8:04. Adam Clendening fed a long pass to Ross Gaudet going into the offensive zone, and the left winger slipped it behind the goal line to right wing Sahir Gill.
“Gill won the scrum in the corner, made a good pass to me when I was cutting to the net,” Gaudet said. “I shot it; Cannata made a save, and it bounced in off my shoulder.”
“When he plays left wing, he scores,” Parker said of Gaudet’s first goal of the season. “When he plays center, he’s more of a defensive player.”
Merrimack almost tied it a half-minute later when Chris Barton stole a pass inside his blue line and raced in on the left wing before crossing it to Jesse Todd, who hit the post.
Another half-minute went by, and the Warriors tied it. Shawn Bates, a winger with the same name as the BU star from the mid-1990s, passed it out of the corner to freshman Mike Collins for a one-time snipe that grazed the intersection of the crossbar and post on the way in, high on Millan’s glove side. It was Collins’s first collegiate goal.
Da Costa hit the crossbar on a power play, and BU freshman Matt Nieto almost scored a short-handed goal halfway through the third period. Da Costa very nearly won it the final ten seconds of regulation when he managed to lure Millan out of the net without shooting, leaving the net vacant. The puck somehow stayed out.
“Sometimes as a goaltender you get lucky, and sometimes your teammates bail you out,” said Millan, who had been fortunate when defenseman Max Nicastro blocked a shot in front of the goal earlier in the game.
Still, it was a great night for both goaltenders.
“Joe has been great for us all year,” Dennehy said. “I know Kieran’s had a lot of praise, rightfully so. I think Joe’s sort of flown under the radar in this league. He’s one of the best goalies in the country.”
BU (6-0-2, 4-0-2 Hockey East) travels to Merrimack (2-2-3, 1-2-2) for the back end of the home-and-home series on Saturday night.