NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The Month of Smith continues for Boston College.
Sophomore left winger Quinn Smith scored on a rebound at 2:23 of overtime as Boston College defeated Merrimack 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,489 at Lawler Arena.
The goal is the sixth of the season and seventh of the career for Smith. More impressively, though, it is Smith’s fifth goal in the month on February.
“He’s never been a goal-scorer when you look back at his career,” said BC coach Jerry York. “He’s getting goals within the goal crease. Just gritty, hard-nosed.”
The goal came off what looked to be an innocent three-on-three rush midway through the extra frame. Patrick Brown put a low shot on net that goaltender Sam Marotta kicked out. The rebound bounced to the left circle. That’s where Smith was ready to pounce.
“It was a great play by my linemates,” said Smith. “Brooks Dyroff made the play happen going hard to the net and taking out their [defense]. I had the easiest job.”
The win avenged a 2-1 overtime loss for Boston College (18-8-3, 13-7-2 Hockey East) at Merrimack nine days ago and in doing so, pushes the Eagles into a three-way tie for first with Providence and New Hampshire.
Merrimack (14-11-6, 12-7-3 Hockey East) remains a point back while Massachusetts-Lowell, in fifth place, is only two points out of first.
“What a difference in the feeling getting on the bus here,” said York after Sunday’s win.
The key turning point in the game came in the third period after BC was whistled for two penalties in less than a minute, giving Merrimack and extended five-on-three advantage. The Warriors scored their only goal on the power play in the first, but this time, the BC penalty killers blocked shot after shot and successfully killed the penalties.
“Those are not good signs when you don’t score on a five-on-three,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “We weren’t executing. The puck wasn’t zipping around and we had an unforced error where we put the puck right on their stick. It’s just not being thorough.”
In a fast-paced, spirited opening period, both teams found the back of the net.
BC controlled the early flow and opened the scoring at 6:32. Taking a drop pass from Bill Arnold, Whitney snapped a high shot past Merrimack netminder Sam Marotta (26 saves) under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead. It was Whitney’s 20th goal of the season making him just the third player in the nation to reach the 20-goal plateau.
A penalty a little more than a minute later to BC’s Peter McMullen gave Merrimack its first power play. And though the Warriors couldn’t score on that man-advantage, they seized momentum that they carried for the final 12 minutes of the period. The result was a 20-7 shot advantage for Merrimack in the period, as well as the equalizer.
Another BC penalty to Smith at 11:00 sent Merrimack back to the power play. BC was aggressive in its penalty killing, attempting to spring forwards for shorthanded bids. That cost the Eagles, though, as Merrimack got the puck on an odd-man rush. Ben Bahe sent a shot to the net from the left wing that resulted in not one or two, but three rebounds, the final one poked home by Shawn Bates under the arm of BC netminder Parker Milner (43 saves) at 12:43 to even the score at one.
In the second, the game came to a grinding halt as sloppy play led to whistle after whistle. The best offensive opportunity came on a two-on-one between Johnny Gaudreau and Whitney at 16:24. Gaudreau slid a perfect pass to Whitney in the slot but the senior sniper fired over the net sending the game to the final 20 tied.
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in regulation. BC’s Danny Linell was robbed by the glove of Marotta at the 5:13 mark after Gaudreau made a perfect pass across to the right post. At 7:47 Merrimack’s Josh Myers was sent in alone after a BC turnover, but Milner stood tall for the save.
Finally, at 12:25, Dyroff looked to have an empty net on a rebound only to have Marotta get his stick across to make the save.