The energy levels were high in Conte tonight as Merrimack brought its student posse to the arena to sit in the nosebleeds and gawk at the players in the maroon and gold. Their passion served as a steady reminder that this was indeed playoff hockey and that a loss here would send the Warriors back to North Andover with their heads hung low. For BC, a win tonight would push them deeper into the tournament to play either UConn or BU at TD Garden in the semi-finals. In the first period, it was evident that each team was playing for their season as they both came out of the gates with ferocity. The first period was involved scrums in the crease with players attemptting to trickle a puck past the opponent’s goaltender instead of firing rockets from the blue line. Surprisingly, nobody was sent to the box either. Overall, it made for some great, old-school physical hockey and kept either team from hitting twine by period’s end.
The second period saw a great increase in intensity as both teams came out of the locker rooms chomping at the bit to get on the board. BC was the first to do so as sophomore Michael Booth was able to field a pass off a faceoff in Merrimack’s zone and wrist it right past MC’s Craig Pantano to give the Eagles the first lead of the game. Additionally, BC’s defense stayed composed with Joseph Woll holding his own in net with some insane acrobatic kick saves and sturdy glove-work to halt any potential put-backs MC looked to capitalize on. In conjunction with BC’s stout defense, the offense appeared to be clicking as the Eagles managed to grow their lead to 2 with an incredible goal by junior JD Dudek. Dudek was able to rebound one of his shots off the posts, collect it back on his stick and then find twine to get his seventh goal of the season. However, MC stayed determined to mount a comeback. A few moments after Dudek’s goal, the Warriors’ Johnathan Kovacevic blasted a shot from in front BC’s blue line to cut the lead to one. Nearing the end of the period, MC was granted their first power play of the game as David Cotton was sent to the sin bin for throwing an uppercut to an MC player (i.e roughing, obviously). Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Warriors were able to capitalize on the first called penalty of the game as junior, and Swedish native, Ludvig Larsson was able to redirect a shot past Woll with 26 seconds left in the period to send the game into the third tied at 2 apiece.
The third period started out hot for the Eagles as they were able to turn defense into some productive offense. Freshman Logan Hutsko was able to poke check and steal the puck away from Merrimack to set up a golden 3 on 1 opportunity that ended in a gorgeous setup pass to Julius Mattila who put it in the back of the net to give the lead back to BC five minutes into the period. BC’s defense was able to hold its own throughout most of the period with solid poke checks in the neutral zone and keeping the Warrior scrums in front of the net at bay. However, the Eagle’s luck soon ran dry as MC’s Alfred Larsson was able to find Tyler Irvine on a cross ice pass with 5 minutes left in regulation to tie the game up once again. And just like that, BC was competing in their seventh overtime game of the season but this time with a trip to the Hockey East semifinals on the mind.
The high intensity carried into overtime as both teams came out on to the ice with a mission. Joseph Woll continued to shine in overtime with some big breakaway stops that helped keep BC in it. It wasn’t until 5 minutes into OT that BC was able to score. Freshman Christopher Grando picked Merrimack’s pockets and sniped the puck past Pantano to complete the series sweep for the Eagles. Merrimack did not make it easy for the Eagles, but nevertheless BC was able to stay composed and pull out the win. Next stop, TD Garden.