Throughout the entire regular season, Boston College men’s hockey’s graduate goaltender Mitch Benson recorded only one shutout, when the Eagles faced New Hampshire on Oct. 23, 2022. But in BC’s Hockey East Tournament quarterfinal game against Merrimack—the biggest game of Benson’s BC career—the netminder didn’t allow a single goal in regulation or throughout the first 28:20 of overtime.
But the goal Benson gave up to Merrimack’s Mick Messner 8:20 into the second overtime period on Saturday was enough for the Warriors to end BC’s season.
“It’s hard to win if you don’t score,” BC head coach Greg Brown said.
Just three days after BC posted five goals in its opening-round win over UMass Amherst, Merrimack (22–12–1, 16–8–0 Hockey East) held the Eagles (14–16–6, 8–11–5) to zero goals, defeating BC in double overtime 1–0 and advancing to the tournament semifinals.
“It was a grind,” Brown said. “It was a hard fought game. Both teams played pretty solid. There were some good chances each way but both goaltenders are having a great night.”
Just under the 15-minute mark of the first period, Merrimack broke out of the defensive zone for a 2 on 1 with Cutter Gauthier being the only Eagle skater back on defense. The Hockey East Third Team selection sprawled out all of his 6-foot-2 frame, taking away the passing lane and forcing a shot on net, which Benson kicked away with the end of his right pad.
“[Benson] was totally unfazed by everything out there,” Brown said. “Such a great, calm demeanor, which keeps the guys in front of them calm. And he made some big time saves. He had a great game.”
Gauthier also nearly gave the Eagles the lead when he hit the post on BC’s first power play of the night at the 14:41 mark that stemmed from a hooking minor on Merrimack’s Alex Jefferies.
Thirteen minutes into the second period, Merrimack netminder Hugo Ollas saved a rocket one-timer from Oskar Jellvik on BC’s second power play of the night.
“We had some looks on our power play, but weren’t able to get one behind,” Brown said. “Both power plays probably thought they could have scored had some good looks, but the penalty kill and the goalies had answers.”
Despite being short-handed, BC had another notable scoring chance after the 11-minute mark in the third period when Mike Posma seemed to have Ollas moving in the wrong direction, but he couldn’t tuck it past the pads of the 6-foot-8 Swedish goaltender.
Heading into overtime, the Eagles had successfully killed off four Merrimack power plays by blocking shots and relying on Benson to stop the pucks that got on net. BC killed off another penalty in the first overtime period, and on the other end, utilized its top forward in Gauthier to generate offensive success.
“We had some really good looks in overtime, we hit a post, had some great chances, but they didn’t go in,” Brown said. “It’s a tough one to lose. Our guys left everything out there.”
Gauthier rang the post once in regulation and once in overtime, but those chances weren’t enough to get BC on the board and win the game.
“Our guys played hard and did a lot of great things,” Brown said. “And when they did get good chances, Mitch was there behind them so that’s solid to kill off all five penalties in the playoffs.”
Despite all these efforts on the road against the Warriors, Messner took the puck and skated all the way into the crease on his own, slotting the puck through Benson’s five-hole to end BC’s season, Brown’s first at the helm of the program.