BOSTON — Boston University and Merrimack played a riveting Hockey East quarterfinal game tonight – so much so that BU coaching legend Jack Parker completely forgot that it turned out to be the last time he coached a game at home before retiring.
BU rallied from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before senior Ben Rosen’s goal midway through the third period gave the Terriers their first lead of the night.
Even then, the outcome was in doubt until senior captain Wade Megan – also playing his final game in front of 3,043 at Agganis Arena – made a head-first dive near the right-wing boards, sending the puck toward the empty net. The sweeping shot hit the far post, but Sahir Gill tapped it in from inches way to clinch the 5-3 win in the final five seconds.
“It kind of felt weird tonight that this was my last game in a BU rink,” Parker said. “It didn’t dawn on me until the game was over when they said, ‘Do you want to say something to the crowd?’ It didn’t hit me. My first thought was, ‘For what?’ And then I realized, ‘Oh yeah. You won’t cross here again.’”
Parker seemed subdued and reflective in the postgame press conference, but he still came up with a line to get the whole room laughing.
“I think all good things must come to an end,” said Parker. “Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Some people cause joy wherever they go – others, whenever they go.’ So some of my guys might be cheering here when I finish up. You never know.”
The win gave BU its first two-game sweep in a Hockey East quarterfinal since 2006. But it’s never easy to end a team’s season and Merrimack put up a tough battle tonight after BU thoroughly stymied them in a 3-0 blanking Friday.
“I thought we played much better tonight than we did last night [and] gave ourselves a chance to win,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “Some great efforts by a lot of people. I thought Sam [Marotta] made some really big saves when he needed to. It just wasn’t enough.”
Parker certainly went out at home with a rousing win.
“It was a heck of a college hockey game to watch; it was a fabulous game to watch,” Parker said. “All in all, it was a very good effort.”
Dennehy admitted that Friday night’s loss left him at a loss.
“I was pretty inconsolable last night after that game because as a coach, you want to be able to tell your players what they need to do to give them the best opportunity to succeed,” said Dennehy. “I didn’t really have any answers after that game.
“And then I watched the video. And as they say, you’re never as bad as you think you are or as good as you think you are when you watch the video. Thankfully, I saw a number of things that I thought if we cured, we could improve on. Woke up this morning, the sun actually rose and my daughter, Kelsey, scored two against Amersbury, and we came up with a game plan we thought would work.”
It was scoreless for most of the first period, but one could sense Merrimack gaining confidence as the minutes ticked on. The Warriors finally capitalized on a power play with exactly one minute left in the first. Forward Shawn Bates skated in alone and stickhandled back and forth before getting BU goalie Sean Maguire to commit. He then tucked the puck around him on the glove side with a backhander.
That set up a topsy-turvy second period, starting with a pretty goal for BU to tie it up at 1:31. Freshman Danny O’Regan raced in on the right wing before making a perfect cross to Matt Nieto crashing the net for the one-time shot and score.
Merrimack regained the lead three minutes later with another power-play goal. Mike Collins got the puck high in the right-wing circle, shooting through traffic and finding the far side of the net.
Maguire, who stopped 39 of 42 shots tonight despite seeing his shutout streak end tonight after 151:32, made a huge save at 5:19 on a Brian Christie breakaway to keep it a one-goal game.
Then with just under four minutes left in the period, BU benefited from a good bounce to tie it up. On the left wing, Cason Hohmann attempted a pass, only to have the puck bounce off a defender and land right back on his stick. He quickly shot and found the short side of the net.
Merrimack regained the lead with just 1:20 left in the period, when a brutal turnover by a BU defenseman led directly to an unassisted goal by John Gustafsson.
It looked as if BU would once again go into the locker room down a goal, but a Merrimack penalty led to a Sam Kurker power-play goal with just 7.6 seconds left in the period.
Kurker knocked in a rebound of a Megan shot from a sharp angle.
“Bizarre that they score so late in the second period and we come back and score again,” Parker said.
BU’s third line struck for its second goal in a row at 5:11 of the third period. Matt Lane made a great effort on the left wing, wheeling to fire a blind backhanded pass toward the slot. Rosen shot and then scored on his rebound for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Lane had two more great bids, including a breakaway at the ten-minute mark, but BU clung to the lead until Megan’s all-out dive set up Gill’s empty-netter in the waning seconds.
For BU’s season and Parker’s career to continue, the Terriers now will have to beat archrival Boston College in next Friday night’s Hockey East semifinal.
Merrimack’s season ends with a 15-17-6 record.