Over the course of two games in a home-and-home series with Merrimack, Boston College men’s hockey had six different power play chances, but it took the No. 3 Eagles all but two seconds of that time to capitalize on the man advantage.
That singular power play goal all weekend could not have come at a better time for BC. With the score knotted at three apiece and 4:01 left on the game clock, captain Marc McLaughlin took a goal-line wrister that snuck just past Merrimack goaltender Zachary Borgiel.
All the Eagles had to do from there was play lockdown defense, and that they did, even when the Warriors pulled Borgiel for a 6-on-5 advantage. An empty-netter from Matt Boldy sealed the game for BC with 0.2 seconds on the clock, and the Eagles (8-2) walked away with a 5-3 win on the road.
“It’s a really important game for our team,” said BC head coach Jerry York in his postgame press conference. “I think we’ll learn a lot about our character throughout the course of the year, but none more so than tonight.”
McLaughlin’s game-winner was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of plays that required character and composure. After entering the third period tied 2-2, Merrimack (1-7) kept the pressure up until Alex Jefferies gave the Warriors a 3-2 lead with 8:08 to go. Just one minute later, Logan Hutsko popped a quick shot from the top of the circle off of a faceoff to tie it up. The rest was up to McLaughlin.
York emphasized the importance of having leaders on the team such as McLaughlin, Hutsko, and Spencer Knight in high-pressure situations. Knight, for example, faced three shots in the last minute and a half of play after Merrimack pulled Borgiel, but he stayed cool under pressure and turned away every puck that came his way. All together, Knight made 30 saves, and the Eagles forced Borgiel to make 31.
“I think we’ve got a number of leaders like that,” York said. “All of a sudden it’s ‘hey, this is how we’re supposed to emulate leaders.’ [It’s] just how hard we have to work and never give up. … [They’re] clichés, but it’s so important in sports and in life to bounce back after being kicked down.”
BC looked to be playing with that mentality all game long, as each time the Eagles put a point on the scoreboard, Merrimack came right back and tied it up. Trevor Kuntar struck first for the Eagles midway through the first period when he poked home a loose puck in front of the net. It was the freshman’s fifth goal of the season.
Merrimack responded near the end of the first period after Kuntar went to the box for interference. Ben Brar knocked home a rebound with two minutes left in the game and 13 seconds left in the power play to even the score at one apiece.
Freshman Nikita Nesterenko then took the lead for the Eagles once again on a shorthanded goal—the Eagles’ NCAA-leading fifth shorty of the season. And once again, Merrimack responded quickly and evened the score at 2-2 less than one minute later.
The freshmen have been a major asset for the Eagles all weekend. Two first-year players—Eamon Powell and Danny Weight—each recorded their first collegiate goals in Saturday’s game, and Kuntar and Nesterenko put on stellar performances on Sunday. Alex Newhook is still out of the lineup with some shoulder soreness, and the younger players have stepped up in his absence.
“It’s a good class,” York said of the freshmen. “I feel they’re getting better as the year goes on, and certainly they’re freshmen and they’re playing in a men’s league here, but they’re showing good signs.”
Once Hutsko tied it up and McLaughlin netted the game-winner, the Eagles put on a defensive clinic led by Knight. As the clock wound down to single digits, McLaughlin stole the puck away and slotted it to Mike Hardman, who found Boldy around the midline for an empty-netter to seal the victory.
“We’ve had a good year so far,” York said. “We’re 8-2, you know, we’re going to be top ranked in the polls, and the kids deserve a lot of credit, but this was a statement game for us.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor