With a minute left on the clock, Merrimack pulled goaltender Jere Huhtamaa to add a sixth skater on the ice. The Warriors were down by only one as the clock wound down and were making a last-ditch effort to tie up the game and force overtime. And in the closing seconds of the game, they almost succeeded. But despite the flurry of shots on net by the Warriors, Spencer Knight shut the door, making multiple incredible saves to deliver the Eagles a 3-2 win.
When No. 6 Boston College men’s hockey (18-8-1, 11-6-0 Hockey East) entered Lawler Arena on Friday night, it did not expect much of a fight from Merrimack (7-20-3, 5-12-3), a team that is currently struggling to make a playoff spot. But despite the Eagles’ statistical dominance, the Warriors refused to go down quietly.
Neither team registered a goal until five minutes remaining in the first period, but that was not for a lack of effort. Despite BC’s best attempts to control play, Merrimack dominated the first period, taking chance after chance against Knight. The Eagles had a scare early on in the game, with a Merrimack shot going past the left shoulder of Knight toward the goal. But the puck took a lucky bounce against the post and ricocheted back out to safety.
Although the Eagles fought for the chance to open the scoring against Huhtamaa, the Warriors put themselves on the scoreboard first. Merrimack controlled the puck in BC’s end and when the Eagles attempted to clear the zone, Patrick Holway stopped the puck, allowing the Warriors to maintain possession. Holway held the puck for a moment before firing a wrister from the blue line. Chase Gresock skated in front of the net and batted at the puck, tipping it past Knight, giving Merrimack the first lead of the game.
Even though the Eagles went scoreless in the first frame, it didn’t take them long to get going in the second period. After just under five minutes of play, Luke McInnis put his name on the scoresheet, collecting his first goal since the Eagles’ shutout against Colgate in October. Aapeli Räsänen backhanded the puck from the backboards to the front of the net where Zach Walker tipped it into the air. McInnis batted the puck down from midair and brought it over to the slot, where he fired it high blockerside on Huhtamaa.
Soon after McInnis tied the game, the Eagles took over the lead from the Warriors. Walker and Ron Greco fought for possession with Merrimack along the back wall, with Greco quickly overcoming the defenders to charge the net. Even though Huhtamaa quickly moved his pads to block the far corner of the net, Greco stuffed the puck through a crack in the goalie’s defense and into the net.
Early on in the third period, the Eagles got a chance to further extend their lead over Merrimack as Gresock was called for hooking, sending BC to its second power play of the night. The Warriors had effectively shut down the Eagles’ strong power play unit—currently poised at No. 10 in the nation with a success rate of .245—in their first penalty, but Merrimack’s No. 34 penalty-kill unit could not hold off the Eagles for another kill.
It took a mere six seconds for BC to capitalize on its man advantage. Jack McBain fought against two Merrimack defenders for possession behind the net before gaining enough control to send a slick backhand pass to Alex Newhook. The rookie forward made a quick shot just as the puck slid in front of him, beating Huhtamaa just inside the right post.
The Warriors got one back against the Eagles shortly after another kill with Tyler Irvine returning to the ice following an interference penalty. Once the game returned to five-on-five play, Merrimack forced a turnover in its own end before racing back across the ice. Regan Kimens carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Eagles’ end before sending the puck just over Knight’s glove, beating the freshman shortside.
But despite late efforts by the Warriors, the Eagles successfully held onto their lead, capturing yet another conference win and their 11th road victory of the season. The Eagles now sit just two points out of first in Hockey East, with two games in hand on Massachusetts, the current leaders. And with each of BC’s six remaining regular season games against lower-ranked conference opponents, it would not be difficult for the Eagles to catch the Minutemen. They just need to focus on this last stretch.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor