The condition of Merrimack goaltender Joe Exter has been upgraded from critical to serious, but stable. Exter remains in Boston’s Beth Israel hospital after suffering a severe concussion and fractured skull in Friday night’s Hockey East quarterfinal game against Boston College.
Tonight’s Game 2 is still scheduled to be played.
The injury occured as the result of an open-ice collision with BC’s Patrick Eaves. As Exter skated out of the Merrimack net to play a loose puck just above the right faceoff circle, an oncoming Eaves collided full-force into the goaltender, striking Exter’s right temple with his left knee.
According to Merrimack sports information director Tom O’Brien, Exter was immediately knocked unconscious and suffered a seizure on the ice, with blood hemorrhaging from his ears. Exter lay on the ice for nearly 25 minutes and was attended to by trainers on both teams, and Boston College physicians Dr. Diane English and Dr. Pierre d’Hemencourt. The quick attention may have saved Exter’s life.
The collision incited a major fracas on the ice, as Merrimack and Boston College players both engaged in fisticuffs. Eaves and Merrimack’s Cam DeYoung were both given major penalties for fighting and game disqualifications, with Eaves picking up an extra major penalty and game disqualification for intent to injure.
The game DQs were Eaves’ second and third of the season, meaning an automatic five-game suspension. Supplemental discipline may not be reduced after the fact, only added, according to NCAA rules.
Several other players were involved in altercations, and a number of players apparently left the bench during the melee. Further disciplinary action could still handed out, pending review of the tapes.
Further melees ensued throughout the remainder of the 6:17 of the game, with BC’s Bill Cass and Merrimack captain Lucas Smith each given game disqualifications for fighting. All disqualified players will be missing for Saturday’s Game 2.
Merrimack head coach Chris Serino, obviously still shaken from the incident, offered little to say to the media before exiting to the hospital to check on the condition of Exter.
“I take full responsibility for everything that went on at the end of the game,” said Serino. “I don’t want to say things that I really might be sorry for later.”
On the other side, Boston College head coach Jerry York defended his players, saying that he believed the hit was a result of both players skating hard after the puck.
“The incident was a loose puck and Exter came out and dove for it and there was a collision,” said York. “There was absolutely no intent to injure on Patrick’s part.
“We hope that [Exter] is okay. We know he was taken to the hospital but don’t know yet what’s happened there.”
Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna was on hand for Friday’s game and was expected to begin reviewing the videotape shortly, though he was en route to the hospital as well. He said that before tomorrow’s game, he will speak to both teams.
“We have a meeting before the first [playoff] game automatically,” said Bertagna. “We’ll have a meeting before the second game only if it’s necessary and I’d say after what’s happened here [tonight] it’s necessary.
“What we’re going to say and what the meeting topic will be, I don’t know yet. This all happened so fast that I really have not had a chance to think about it yet. But we’ll have a meeting to bring people together.”
Boston College went on to win the game, 4-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Exter is the captain of the Warriors and entering Friday night’s game posted an 11-15-6 record with a 2.93 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. He is a top candidate for Hockey East Player of the Year, having carried a Merrimack team picked to finish last place in the preseason poll to a respectable 12-16-6 regular season record.
Merrimack’s backup goaltender, Casey Guenther, has appeared in just seven games this season with a 1-1-0 record.