NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — A goal in the final minute of the first period broke a tie Tuesday night, sending No. 2 Boston College to a 4-1 victory over Merrimack.
Freshman Adam Gilmour’s power-play tally with 42 seconds remaining in the opening frame put Boston College ahead for good, but it was the Eagles’ 60-minute effort that coach Jerry York lauded the most.
“It’s always been a difficult place to play. … [Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy has] got a lot of players that buy into his system,” York said. “I thought our system and effort on our side were as good as we’ve had in this building in a number of years. We were pretty solid and methodical as we were going through the periods.”
It was the first regulation win at Lawler Arena for the Eagles since February 2012. Over the past four seasons, the Eagles are only 2-3 in the building, with one of those wins needing overtime last season. Needless to say, it was important to get out to a quick start.
The Eagles wasted no time getting on the board, with Kevin Hayes getting credit for a goal just 1:23 into the game. The senior lined up a shot on a feed from junior Johnny Gaudreau and flicked a quick shot that Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen deflected. The puck, however, rebounded off Warriors defenseman Dan Kolomatis’ skate and snuck over the goal line.
Hayes was credited with his 17th goal of the season, while Gaudreau was given his 48th point. The duo has already combined for 91 points on the season.
Merrimack tied the score just over three minutes later, as senior Mike Collins sniped a nice goal of his own. With two Boston College skaters essentially blocking freshman goalie Thatcher Demko’s sightlines, Collins took advantage of his opportunity, firing a wrister top shelf before Demko could flinch.
The goal fueled a bit of a charge for the Warriors, who were everywhere on the ice for the majority of the first period.
To the naked eye, Merrimack competed early on. The stats said otherwise, as the Warriors managed only two shots on goal in the period while taking five penalties and losing 17 of 25 faceoffs.
To boot, Ben Bahe fired a shot off the right post on a breakaway.
Aided by a few missed opportunities from the Eagles — senior captain Patrick Brown, in particular, missed a goal with a wide-open net, pushing the puck wide from point-blank range — the Warriors had their chances but simply couldn’t capitalize.
Then, just as tides seemed to be turning and a dreadful period coming to a close for Merrimack, Gilmour’s goal deflated the team that had just spent half the period on a penalty kill.
Asked if he was happy about scoring at the very beginning and end of the period, York was coy.
“You play 60 minutes. That’s [liking to score at the beginning and end of periods] more of coach-talk,” he said with a chuckle. “I just like goals, and I don’t like to give up goals, whether it’s the first period or five-minute mark or start of the game. But I think tonight that early goal kind of helped us get started. I think that was a good feeling on the bench.”
Brown redeemed himself midway through the third period on a goal after what appeared to be a missed offsides call, extending the lead to 3-1.
“Merrimack guarded very closely, defended very well — it wasn’t a high octane game. Tonight was more of a good, physical, hard run-the-football-type game,” York said. “It’s critical for us [to know they can play that way], absolutely critical, because you’ve got to win all sorts of games if we’re going to meet the goals we set for ourselves. Our standard of play, you know: muddy tracks, fast tracks.”
Freshman Austin Cangelosi put the nail in the coffin with an empty-net strike with 52 seconds remaining.
Despite not committing another penalty for the remainder of the game and outshooting the Eagles 18-15 over the final 40 minutes, Merrimack simply wasn’t able to catch up.
“It could have been better; it’s not the start we wanted,” Dennehy said. “When we establish the way we want to play, we can play with the best teams in the country. It took us too long to establish that. When you play a good team like that, you get an own goal, those need to go in your favor when you’re playing the No. 2 team in the country, not against you.”