Boston College Merrimack
Things are really starting to come together now, aren't they? This was really a big weekend for BC hockey. Coming off the high of the Beanpot Championship, the Eagles had to quickly shake off their hangovers (figuratively speaking, I'm sure...) coming into the big weekend against #11 Merrimack.
Two games and two wins later, BC is sitting at the top of both the Hockey East and national standings. With BU's loss to Lowell (woohoo!) and BC's 2-1 win over Merrimack tonight, BC broke the tie atop the Hockey East standings with the Terriers, and separated themselves into being all alone in 1st place in the Pairwise Rankings.
I was... err... "lucky" enough to attend this one. The Mrs. and I made the trek all the way up from southern Connecticut. In all the hockey games I've gone to since my freshman year, I had never been to Merrimack. Go figure. What a cruddy hockey arena. I felt like I was at a high school game.
First off, we had awful seats, but I can't really complain as the game had been sold out for weeks and I only managed to get tickets by having a friend of mine get me a pair from BC's season ticket holder allotment. We had a great view of the goal BC shot at twice... and that was about it. The other net was distorted through Merrimack's warped glass so I could barely tell what was going on down that end by looking at the position of the players. Second off, the only walkway around the arena was in front of the sections, directly along the glass. Which was totally sweet, because people were walking right in my line of sight in the only part of the rink that I could see anything happening. Third, there was zero atmosphere. For a game that was sold out for weeks, it sounded like an empty warehouse. Too bad I didn't go there with my roommate & co. while we were students, because we would have pretty much made that place Our House. I could hear discussions happening on the ice, for crying out loud. I can honestly say I will probably never go back to that arena again.
The only great thing was that, for some reason, Bruins legend Rene Rancourt sang the national anthems before the game. What?? How?? Why???
Oh well. To the game! This was one of those games where the shot totals really told the story. The first period was pretty even, which was to be expected against a tough team (ha, ha, yes, I know they were #1 at one point and have had quite the fall from grace, but they're still tough) that plays exceptionally well at home. Luckily for us, we were able to draw first blood halfway through the first frame on a beautiful set up from Kreider to Dumoulin. It was one of those things of beauty where the puck carrier showed tremendous patience, and then dished the puck over to the shooter for the easy score.
The 2nd period was a mess. Merrimack dominated the entire frame. His Greatness, Coach York called a timeout but the team didn't respond well at all. After an absolute onslaught of Merrimack chances, the Warriors finally put the proverbial biscuit in the proverbial oven with some nice tic-tac-toe passing.
The third period was all Eagles, all the time. The scoreboard wasn't very good at tracking shots, but it one point I looked up about 2/3 of the way through the period and it didn't appear that they had credited Merrimack with a shot for the entire period... which may have been accurate. BC had chance after chance, even ripping one up into the corner of the post that just stayed out and even necessitated a goal review, to no avail. Finally, Paul Carey took care of a rebound in the slot, spun himself, set, and ripped in the game winner with just over 5 minutes remaining in regulation. Merrimack had their chances with the empty net, including a huge chance with 3 seconds remaining, but the Eagles held on.
Parker Milner was again outstanding, and outside of the Beanpot, this would have to go down as his best effort yet. There was really nothing he could do on the Merrimack goal, and the Warriors had several chances, especially in the 2nd period, that he stoned cold. It feels very, very good seeing Milner quickly become a backstop that can make some big saves.
One thing to note is that it really seems BC has simplified their game, to spectacular results. I've lost track of how many of their goals since the beginning of their 7 game winning streak have come from the slot. I've also stopped complaining about them making too many passes. Their game has been pretty simple: make the play to open up the man in the slot, get the puck to him, and take the high-quality shot. Get enough of those chances on net in a high-percentage scoring area and good things will happen. It's not rocket science, but it has worked wonders.
BC takes on Providence in another home-and-home next weekend. The game at Conte is apparently already sold out (yeah, being #1 in the nation will do that).
Hope you are all on board the bandwagon, because this is setting up to be another classic Jerry York late-season run.