CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Fifteen years of futility for Merrimack nearly came to an end on Sunday afternoon, but a disallowed overtime goal forced the Warriors to settle for a 2-2 tie at Boston College’s Kelley Rink, a place Merrimack hasn’t won since 1997.
Fourth-line winger Kyle Singleton poked a puck into an open net with 12.9 seconds remaining in overtime. Referee Scott Hansen, though, ruled that Rhett Bly knocked the puck out of the air with a high stick immediately before Singleton knocked it home. After extensive review of the play on instant replay, Hansen couldn’t find substantial enough evidence to overturn the call.
“I didn’t see it,” admitted Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “[The puck] was definitely redirected. The video was inconclusive because it was out of the play, so they have to go with what was called on the ice.”
Had the goal stood, that would have been icing on the cake as Merrimack was fortunate to get the game to overtime. The Warriors fell behind, 2-0, rallied to within a goal and then Connor Toomey scored his second goal of the game with 1:10 remaining in regulation and the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker.
“That’s our third extra-attacker goal of the season,” said Dennehy. “You put your hottest six on the ice and say a little prayer.”
Prayers answered, Merrimack avoided what could have been a lost weekend in the Hockey East standings. The Warriors lost, 4-2, to Boston University on Friday, so getting a point was not just fortunate, it was critical.
“It’s always good when you come back and tie a game,” said Dennehy. “I thought we played pretty well, so if we hadn’t come away with a point it would’ve been an injustice.”
As good as Merrimack can feel getting the tie, Boston College is equally frustrated given that the Eagles had ample opportunities to pad its lead in the second period.
“We had great offensive chances,” said BC coach Jerry York. “It’s hard for me to believe we only had a two-goal output, but goalies have a stake in that and [Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata] played well.”
After a scoreless first period in which both teams had some great looks at the net and were unable to score, the Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Paul Carey’s seventh goal of a season. Carey got behind the Merrimack defense and roofed a shot glove side on Cannata (21 saves) just 47 seconds into the second.
The Eagles extended the lead while shorthanded at 5:10. Barry Almeida drew two Merrimack defenders, hesitated and then slid a perfect pass to Steven Whitney, who also buried a shot high glove side on the Warriors netminder.
Merrimack, though, responded less than three minutes later. Ryan Flanigan forced a turnover at the right faceoff dot, cut to the net and fed Toomey, who one-timed a low shot past BC netminder Brian Billett (22 saves).
As the third period wore on, it appeared the Eagles might escape with a one-goal win. Merrimack squandered three full and one partial power-play opportunity, mustering just two shots in the seven-plus minutes of power-play time.
The rookie Toomey, though, helped earn Merrimack the point redirecting what he called a Jordan Heywood “knuckle puck” in the closing minutes to knot the game.
The tie marked just the third time in the last 25 games at Boston College that Merrimack has earned any points. Still, the Warriors extend their winless streak (0-22-3) at Kelley Rink, a place the team last won on Oct. 20, 1997.
The tie pulls Boston College (13-7-0, 9-4-1 Hockey East) into a deadlock with Boston University for first place. The single point for Merrimack (11-4-4, 7-3-2 Hockey East) places them three points behind BC and BU in third place.