CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — With nearly half a game in the books on Friday night, things looked pretty grim for the No. 1 Boston College Eagles.
Trailing Merrimack, 3-0, at home, the Eagles were getting plenty of offensive chances, but couldn’t solve Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta (38 saves). Then the Eagles’ top line took over the game, particularly senior Steven Whitney, and the Eagles executed an improbable comeback, defeating the Warriors, 4-3, in front of 6,638 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
Whitney scored Boston College’s (9-1-0, 8-1-0 Hockey East) first goal at 7:39 of the second, sparking a three-goal outburst in a span of 5:14. Then in the third, Whitney blasted home the game-winner with 7:22 remaining. Both goals were nearly identical — quick-release snap shots that Marotta couldn’t stop.
“What’s great about Steven’s shooting ability is his quick release,” said BC coach Jerry York.
Friday, that certainly was the case. His first goal came as a Merrimack (4-6-1, 3-3-0 Hockey East) defender tried to defend the senior right wing. Whitney though, unleashed a snap shot that flew just under the crossbar to bring the Eagle crowd to life.
Similarly in the third, Whitney took a pass just inside the blue line from linemate Johnny Gaudreau and quickly snapped off a shot inside the upper right corner.
“That individual effort on that shot from the top of the circle, you don’t see that too often,” said Gaudreau of Whitney’s game-winner. “Both goals were rockets. To see that shot, it’s pretty amazing to see someone shoot the puck that hard.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Eagles dug themselves a massive hole, surrendering three quick goals to the Warriors.
John Gustafsson got Merrimack on the board at 1:15, blasting a shot high stick side on BC netminder Parker Milner (23 saves). At 3:19, big man Kyle Bigos extended the lead, blasting a slap shot from the right point that deflected off a BC defender into the top corner. At 5:51, Mike Collins was credited with a goal when a puck in front somehow trickled through Milner inside the right post.
At 7:16 of the frame, a long shift for the Warriors ended with an icing call. Hoping to give his players a rest, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy called a timeout. Little did he know that the timeout would be an opportunity for the Eagles to regroup.
“I just explained that there was plenty of time left in the game,” said York, whose Eagles overcame a three-goal deficit once already this season in a 5-4 overtime win at Massachusetts on October 19.
Just 23 seconds after the timeout, Whitney ignited the team and the crowd when he blasted in his first goal at 7:39. At 11:50, as a BC power play was set to expire, Patrick Wey one-timed a loose puck when Marotta was down and out. Just over two minutes later, Danny Linell completed the comeback, roofing a backhander from in close over Marotta to send the game to the third even at three.
From that point, Merrimack managed just five shots for the remainder of the game, and didn’t get a single shot in the game’s closing two minutes when Marotta was lifted for an extra attacker.
Even in defeat though, Dennehy still was happy with the performance of his team.
“[BC] had some really good players make some really good plays,” said Dennehy. “That’s a good team. That’s the number one team in the country.”