Men's Hockey

Gustafsson’s Hat Trick Propels Merrimack Over Eagles

Hampus Hatty

Despite its lack of depth, Boston College men’s hockey always has a chance because the Eagles usually have the best player on the ice on any given night. Often it’s goalie Joseph Woll, but sometimes it’ll be forward Colin White or defenseman Casey Fitzgerald. On Friday night, BC lost in large part because Merrimack’s Hampus Gustafsson claimed that mantle. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound sweet-handed Swedish senior went supernova and potted his first hat trick since, according to him, “a really long time ago.”

Gustafsson picked up the first third of his triumvirate by banging in a rebound, but his second goal of the first period was dazzling. It also highlighted the problems that BC has down the stretch when it goes up against teams that have multiple players of Gustafsson’s caliber. The Warriors’ first line of Gustafsson, Brett Seney, and Sami Tavernier caught the Eagles’ fourth line in a mismatch, and Gustafsson deked out BC’s Mike Booth in the neutral zone before rushing up ice and splitting the back line of Scott Savage and Luke McInnis. Woll didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but even if he did he probably wouldn’t have had a shot at stopping the sudden forehand-to-backhand move that Gustafsson deployed for the second leg of his trio.

“It just kinda happened,” Gustafsson said. “I kind of wanted them to gap up on me and pass it out to the side so then I could drive the net. I got it back and I tried to get it around [the defense]. Nice to see it go in.”

The Swede didn’t show off the same level of skill to cap off his night, but he did show off his clutch gene. BC dominated possession in the third and made it 4-3, but soon after that Gustafsson got off a quick one timer from the slot to restore the Warriors’ two-goal lead.

“I just got the puck and tried to get it off as quick as possible before the lane closed,” Gustafsson said. “I was just very fortunate it went in, I think it went in five-hole.”

He may have been fortunate on that one, but he deserved the hat trick for dicing up BC’s defense all game long. Along with Seney and Tavernier, Gustafsson also impressed his coach at the other end of the ice.

“They’re very gifted offensively,” head coach Mark Dennehy said. “What I was happiest about was there was a shift in the first period where they kind of got hemmed in and even though they were gassed they didn’t really give anything up. That’s a big step for them. We know they play well offensively.”

Witch is Dead

Friday’s win was a big one for Dennehy. It marked the first time the former BC player, a ‘91 graduate, beat his alma mater in Chestnut Hill, and it also was the first time his current program won at Conte Forum since 1997. You can probably figure out that was a long time ago, but just in case you can’t, Merrimack’s oldest player Jonathan Lashyn was just four years old on Halloween night, 1997. Tavernier hadn’t hit his first birthday yet. The players were aware of that, even if Dennehy wished that they weren’t. Dennehy never liked to talk about the streak when it was still alive, and didn’t really want to talk about it after it died.

“We’re not gonna let the past dictate what we do moving forward,” Dennehy said. “As coaches, you try to insulate your team from the media, but I think some of our guys knew that this program hasn’t won here in a long time. But as I said to one of my assistants, ‘Who has won here a lot?’ Are there any teams over the last 20 years that have won here? I’ll watch their games and take a recipe. But you take it game to game.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

February 11, 2017

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