Boston College controlled the puck on each end of the ice, and would’ve won by more than one goal if it was’t for Rasmus Tirronen.
Both of Boston College’s goals in its victory over Merrimack College on Wednesday came off Warrior breakdowns. An uncovered Adam Gilmour banged in a rebound from in close, and Chris Calnan waltzed in from the blue line on goaltender Rasmus Tirronen for his game winner—sans Merrimack resistance. While the Warriors defended their end well for most of the night, they were in their end so much that they cracked enough times to lose.
BC wore down its opponent by dominating the puck, firing 19 more shots than Merrimack, and while BC missed the net on 54 of those shots, the Eagles’ possession game won them a crucial two points in the Hockey East “pennant race,” as Head Coach Jerry York dubbed the latter part of the season.
“How many times can you say you win the special teams matchup and lose the game?” Merrimack Head Coach Mark Dennehy said after the game, whose team’s only goal came on the power play.
BC suffocated Merrimack at even strength in every area. The Eagles’ forwards provided a relentless forecheck and hustled back into their own zone to give extra layers to the defense when they needed to.
Those instances were rare on Wednesday, though, with BC either turning Merrimack over in its own end or stifling the Warriors in the neutral zone. BC’s defensemen cleaned up their own end when a need arose too, winning battles behind the net and starting smooth breakouts.
Merrimack usually stayed with its checks in its own end, but the Eagles kept winning battles and races for the puck that kept the Warriors playing defense. The Eagles’ lackluster offense made for quality defense, while preventing their own defense corps from wearing down as Merrimack’s did.
“I thought we were getting good running time,” York said. “We’re possessing the puck better than we did early in the season, and our offensive zone play has been better. We’re protecting pucks and creating some good offense and some good shots.”
BC’s possession would have produced a rout against most goaltenders. Merrimack’s Tirronen didn’t stand on his head in the process of turning away 30 shots because he was in such good position all game. Tirronen had a .930 save percentage heading into Wednesday and flashed all the reasons why against the Eagles.
The Finn gloved bombs from all of BC’s star-studded defense core, at one point picking off missiles from Ian McCoshen and Noah Hanifin on consecutive faceoffs. He filled the net with his six-foot-four frame with good positioning. For a netminder of that size, he got from post to post with relative ease, robbing both Austin Cangelosi and Ryan Fitzgerald on point-blank looks.
Then, in the third period, BC was looking to ice the game when it sent out its first power play unit, and its one-three-one formation had Merrimack’s penalty kill scrambling. McCoshen and Gilmour were on each half-wall, feeding the puck back and forth to each other, but Tirronen tracked the puck around the zone and didn’t give any shooters daylight with his powerful kick-slide.
“He’s one of the elite goaltenders in college hockey,” Dennehy said.
Elite wasn’t enough for the Warriors, but that adjective understates Tirronen’s performance against the Eagles.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor