Eagles Sweep Merrimack To Get Lead Of Hockey East
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Only days after defeating rival BU to take home its third consecutive Beanpot trophy, the No. 3 Boston College men's hockey team headed into this past weekend with a couple of vital tasks in mind: continue the recent momentum against Hockey East rival Merrimack and earn head coach Jerry York his historic 900th career victory.
In the second game of a home-and-away set, the Eagles took on a formidable Merrimack Warrior squad in enemy territory, looking to seize control of the conference.
A combination of sound defense and timely execution on the offensive end allowed York's BC squad to capture a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday night, earning the Eagles a crucial series sweep. The win was BC's seventh in a row, and, most importantly, gave them sole position of first place in a competitive Hockey East.
"From my perspective, the game itself had a real playoff feel to it," York said. "The intensity of the game, the close checking, the physical play, the goaltending on both ends–it all felt like a … playoff run. It was that type of game."
After netting four goals the previous night, the Eagles were off to another quick start against the Warrior defense in Saturday night's matchup. Halfway through the first frame, BC's Chris Kreider and Johnny Gaudreau assisted junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who sent the puck past Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata to give BC an early 1-0 lead.
It appeared that the offensive floodgates would open once again, but the game settled into a defensive struggle, marked by solid play from BC goaltender Parker Milner and Merrimack's Cannata. The one-goal deficit remained unchanged until Warrior forward Jessie Todd beat Milner to tie the game, interrupting a sudden lack of offensive execution from both sides. Although the Eagles managed to outshoot their opponents by a margin of 18-7 in the second frame, they came away empty-handed.
After Todd's score, a two-way defensive battle continued to control the contest. The Eagles remained persistent on Merrimack's end of the ice, once again outshooting their opponents by a wide margin. With just over five minutes to play in the third period, however, BC displayed its characteristic ability to capitalize late in a game. After a missed shot from teammate Edwin Shea, senior forward Paul Carey corralled the rebound and fired a shot into the net to give the Eagles a 2-1 advantage. The game-winning goal was Carey's second in two nights, and BC's second power play goal of the evening.
"Paul Carey made a very good play in the goal," York said of the game-deciding goal. "It was an exceptional play by one of our seniors."
The Eagles' second consecutive weekend series sweep provided them with added momentum heading into the last stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. With the top three spots in the Hockey East separated by a mere three points, consistent execution may prove to be the only viable formula for a conference championship.
Saturday's victory, however, was preceded by monumental night that marked a turning point in the illustrious career of BC head coach Jerry York.
Looking to continue its late-season hot streak after an emotional Beanpot championship victory earlier last week, the Eagles looked to make a statement against Merrimack at Conte Forum in the first game of this crucial weekend series.
Thanks to three periods of physical play and aggressive offense, BC took the first game by a score of 4-2 on Friday night. Though the Eagles successfully continued their winning streak against a Hockey East foe, their hard-fought win earned York his 900th career win in front of an ecstatic home crowd. With this monumental victory, York became only the second head coach in collegiate hockey history to reach the 900-win plateau, adding another to a career of record-setting milestones and ensuring an impeccable legacy. Despite his tremendous personal achievement, the humble BC legend remained focused on his team's cohesive effort.
"When you sign up for a team sport, whether you're coaching or you're a player, it's never about individual awards or accomplishments," York said after the game. "I never thought going into the game that, ‘Hey, if I can get this win, I can get 50 wins, or I can get 100 wins.' It's something that doesn't really motivate me."
The Eagles came storming out of the gate, poised to put the game out of reach early on. Halfway into the first period, BC's Steven Whitney made a beautiful cross pass to defenseman Patrick Wey, who snuck a shot past Warrior's Cannata for the first goal of the game and of the junior's season. After missing significant time due to a severed tendon in his foot, Wey was glad to be back on the ice and contribute to a key victory.
"It was a great feeling," he commented. "I don't get many opportunities [to score], so I really enjoyed it."
The Eagles' offense, however, would strike again only three minutes later when freshman standout Johnny Gaudreau scored off of a rebound near the goal, notching his 14th goal of the season and putting BC up 2-0. The Eagles' first-period offensive onslaught saw them outshoot Merrimack 17 to 5.
Throughout the second period, goalie Parker Milner and the BC defense stifled the few attempts the Warriors made near the goal, allowing the Eagles to continue capitalizing on the offensive end. After a series of good puck movement, captain Tommy Cross set up Barry Almeida for a deflection into the net, completing the senior connection. Ten minutes later, Carey shot an impressive fade-away wrister through heavy traffic that somehow scooted past Cannata and the Merrimack defense, putting BC up by a score of 4-2. The goal was Carey's tenth of the season, making him the sixth Eagle in double-digit scoring for the year.