NORTH ANDOVER — It took almost every second of last night’s 65 minutes to decide an outcome between Merrimack College and Boston College at J. Thom Lawler Arena. In the end, it was the Warriors who jumped over the Eagles into first place in Hockey East, beating BC 2-1 in overtime off the stick of sophomore forward Connor Toomey.
Toomey’s goal was set up off a shot from the point by Jordan Heywood. The play, drawn up on the Merrimack bench by associate head coach Glenn Stewart during a timeout, worked to perfection, and Toomey rifled the rebound over a sprawling Parker Milner.
As he did, the roof nearly blew off Lawler Arena.
“It was something Coach Stewart drew up for the power play,” Toomey said. “It was a nice shot from (Heywood), and it was just sitting there for me. It’s a good feeling to work all 60-plus minutes and get the W.”
The Eagles struck first at the 8:58 mark of the second period. Quinn Smith jammed a loose puck under Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta (39 saves) as he was stretched out face first on the ice trying desperately to cover it for a whistle.
Originally, the play was called no goal before a video review reversed the call.
Minutes later, Merrimack junior Shawn Bates entered the offensive zone and unleashed a wrister that clanged off metal behind Milner before taking an odd bounce out from behind him. At the next whistle, the officials declined to go to review, drawing venom from the Merrimack faithful.
But, per NCAA rules, it would have been the Merrimack bench that needed to request the play be looked at, and the Warriors would have needed to call a timeout to do so.
Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy declined to send the play upstairs. Upon further review in the press box, it was a good thing he didn’t — the puck appeared to ring off the inside of the post, but never crossed the goal line.
“I thought it was frustrating,” Merrimack senior John Heffernan said of the sequence. “We knew if we just kept to our game and kept doing what we’re doing, things would go our way. We all knew we could come back, we just needed to keep playing our game.”
The win moved the Warriors to No. 17 in the Pairwise rankings, keeping them just outside the top-16, which is the likely breaking point for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
“We know if we win, we’re playing good teams, so if we do our job (the Pairwise) will take care of itself,” Heffernan said.
Peaking at the right time
Last season, the Warriors were unbeatable through Thanksgiving, soaring to a No. 1 national ranking before coming unraveled in the second half of the season and finishing out of the NCAA tournament.
This year, it appears the Warriors are surging at the right time.
Since Jan. 1, Merrimack is 8-2-1, beating league powers Boston College and New Hampshire (twice).
“It’s always when you get hot,” Heffernan said.
“You want to get hot later in the season. Last year we peaked at the very beginning and it didn’t work for us. Hopefully, this year we are peaking at the right time and we can carry it into March and April.”
Without question, goaltender Sam Marotta has been Merrimack’s hottest player during their recent run. Silence came over the building with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation, when the junior was slow to get up from a collision in his crease after covering the puck for a whistle.
“The shot I didn’t even see,” Marotta said. “It came in and hit me right in the collarbone. Then when I was down covering up, a skate came and hit me right (under the chin) and I got caught really close here to the jugular, but I survived.”
Merrimack 2, Boston College 1
at J. Thom Lawler Arena
Boston College (17-8-2, 12-7-1 HE): 0-1-0-0–1
Merrimack College (14-10-5, 12-6-2 HE): 0-0-1-1–2
Second Period: 1. BC Quinn Smith 5 (Destry Straight, Travis Jeke), ev, 8:58.
Third Period: 2. MC John Heffernan 4 (Rhett Bly), ev, 12:57.
Overtime: 3. MC Connor Toomey 4 (Mike Collins, Connor Toomey), pp, 4:26.
Shots: Merrimack 14-11-12-5–42; Boston College 9-15-14-2–40
Saves: MC Marotta 40 shots 39 saves; BC Milner 42 shots, 41 save
Power Play: Merrimack 1 for 9; Boston College 0 for 3
Penalties: Merrimack 5-10; Boston College 10-20
Faceoffs: 56-38 Boston College
Attendance: 2,489 (2,489)
Next: at Providence Sunday, 4