BOSTON — When Merrimack was awarded the game’s first power play just 47 seconds into Friday night’s tilt vs. No. 2 Boston College, it was a golden chance to set the tone early.
But the Eagles quickly erased that thought 31 seconds into their penalty kill when Bill Arnold tapped in his first of three goals on the night, finishing a pass across from Johnny Gaudreau on a two-on-one shorthanded rush, taking the Warriors out of the contest before it really began.
With a 2-0 lead thanks to a second Arnold goal in the first period, the Eagles never looked back, running roughshod over the Warriors with a 6-1 win in front of 5,772 at Conte Forum.
Arnold’s second goal of the first period required a bit of patience.
At 14:03, Gaudreau found Arnold wide-open on the back door, then Arnold made a fabulous deke to the forehand, spilling Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen (18 saves) to the ground and leaving a wide open net.
Having scored shorthanded and even strength, Arnold completed the hat track with a power-play goal in the third period.
With the Eagles in control midway through the period, Arnold banged in a rebound at the top of the crease created by a short-range shot from Gaudreau, extending the BC lead to 5-0.
“It was great to see Billy get the goals tonight,” BC associate head coach Greg Brown said. “He does all the little work that goes unnoticed, so it was nice to see him find the back of the net.”
“I’ve got Kevin [Hayes] and Johnny on my line [and] they made it pretty easy tonight,” Arnold added.
From the outset, the Warriors couldn’t keep up, opting instead to hunker down in the defensive zone, but they often found themselves cemented there for long, fatiguing shifts.
The Eagles took a business-like approach to the contest, taking care of the puck and netminder Thatcher Demko (23 saves), pinning the Warriors to the outside in the defensive zone and cutting down on turnovers on the offensive end, which had been a focal point leading into the game.
“It’s always a point of emphasis but yes, especially after the BU game [on Monday], I thought we were careless against [turnovers],” Brown said. “We stressed that during the week and we were much sharper tonight.”
On the rare occasions the Warriors possessed the puck for an extended stretch, they had trouble stitching two passes together. While they started to generate chances in the third period, by then they were well out of the game.
“You get breaks when you play hard enough for a long enough period of time,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “We had some brain farts early in the game where we crept down on the power play, then let two very good players in on a two-on-one, but I’m not going to get discouraged and I refuse to let [my team] get discouraged.”
Even the bounces that went Merrimack’s way got easily cancelled out by the Eagles’ defense. The Warriors were sluggish in the offensive zone, though improved on their chances with more assertive passing in the third period.
But by then, it was far too late.
“We had plenty of chances and if we had taken advantage of those early, it would be a different story,” Dennehy added.
Merrimack entered the game starved for offense, having scored just 18 goals in 13 league games entering the night, while Boston College continued to eat the league alive, climbing to 60 goals in 15 league games by the end of the night.
With Friday’s business taken care of, the Eagles can next turn their attention to the Beanpot championship game on Monday.
“I guess you could call it your typical trap game, but the coaches and the guys did a great job of staying focused,” Arnold said. “Now we can look forward to Monday night and get focused for that.”