NORTH ANDOVER — Boston College hockey coach Jerry York looked out at the Lawler Arena ice about a half hour after another win for No. 2 ranked Eagles last night.
“Look at this place and how bright it is,” said York after BC’s 4-1 win over Merrimack College. “I am so impressed with that they’ve done here, upgrading the facility, the bright lights, the new boards and glass, the new entrance ... They’ve come a long way.”
Then he took a deep breath.
“But this place is still a tough place to play,” said York, whose team, now 11-1-1 in Hockey East and 17-4-3 overall. “It first started with (former coach) Ronny Anderson and now (coach) Mark Dennehy. They work so hard. They skate real well. And they just don’t give you any room. It’s always tough to come up here and play Merrimack.”
While Merrimack did indeed play their typical gritty game, it allotted the mighty Eagles a few too many opportunities last night.
In fact, the Warriors committed five two-minute penalties in the first period, all legitimate, and were outshot 11-2.
Worse, BC’s first goal was mistakenly knocked in by the Merrimack defense only 1:23 into the game.
Merrimack’s Mike Collins, who is the only Warrior who could compete for a spot on the first two lines for BC, tied it up soon after at 4:47 on a wrister over goalie Thatcher Demko’s glove from about 25 feet away.
Then the killer, with 42 seconds remaining in the first period, and only power play goal BC scored in five chances when Teddy Doherty’s wrister was redirected by Adam Gilmore past Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen.
Dennehy was asked if he was happy being down “only” 2-1 after one period.
“No,” snapped Dennehy. “It could have been worse. But it couldn’ve been better, too. We had to kill half the period.”
Merrimack’s speedy sophomore Ben Bahe also had a breakaway on one of the penalty kills (he had another turned away in the second period).
While Merrimack’s best period of the game was the second, in which it outshot BC 14-10, it was the Eagles that got the only goal 8:31 into the period.
It was another wrister from the left slot that got over Tirronen’s left shoulder for the 3-1 lead.
The goal, by BC’s Patrick Brown, appeared to be close to being offsides earlier in the play when a BC defender fought to keep the puck in the zone.
“From the video, it looked like it was offsides,” said Dennehy. “We have video to see that. (The referees) don’t. But if you take that goal and then the first goal we gave them, those are the kind of breaks we need to beat a team like this.”
Merrimack and BC played to a defensive draw in the third period, with the teams combining for nine shots.
Merrimack never came close to getting the second goal over the last 10 minutes.
“That was a really good game for us to play,” said York.
“It was a good, physical, football-kind of game. It’s critical for us to win a game like this.”
Merrimack drops to 1-6-2 in Hockey East, but the record, said York does not tell the entire Merrimack story.
“Look what they did against Quinnipiac (a 6-3 win last Saturday) after going down there and having a tough night,” said York.
“And the Clarkson win was a nice one, too (after a hard night) ... Merrimack is a quality team. And to play them here, and beat them, that’s a big deal for us.”
Merrimack plays a home and home series this Friday at UMass Amherst and back here in North Andover on Saturday night.
Boston College 4, Merrimack 1
At Lawler Rink, North Andover
BC 01:23 Kevin Hayes (Johnny Gaudreau); MC 04:47 Mike Collins (Brian Christie & Connor Toomey ); BC 19:18 PP - Adam Gilmour (Teddy Doherty)
BC 08:31 Patrick Brown (Ryan Fitzgerald & Scott Savage )
BC 19:08 EN - Austin Cangelosi (Quinn Smith & Patrick Brown )
Shots on goal: Merrimack 20; BC 26
Saves: MC Tirronen 22, Demko 19
Quiet night for 'Johnny Hockey' Boston College's junior sensation Johnny Gaudreau, who is the favorite to win college hockey's Hobey Baker Award entered last night's game with streak of 16 consecutive games with at least one point. Well, last night, he got one assist on a goal that was knocked in by the Merrimack defense only 1:35 into the game, giving him 17 straight and 21 goals and 27 assists (47 points through 23 games). The 5-foot-8, 20-year-old speedster, who is noted for his skills with the puck, is the property of the Calgary Flames. He got only one shot on goal. North Reading resident Ryan Fitzgerald, only a freshman, and son of long-time NHL player Tom Fitzgerald, added an assist to his season totals (eight goals and 13 assists), keeping him among freshmen players nationally.