The Takeaway: O’Connor, Megan Lead BU Past Merrimack

Posted by: Scott McLaughlin

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Matt O’Connor improved to 5-0-0 and Wade Megan tallied a goal and two assists as Boston University beat Merrimack 3-1 on Friday. After a scoreless first, BU (5-2-0, 4-1-0 Hockey East) took a 1-0 lead 1:22 into the second. Cason Hohmann made a beautiful pass from the left corner to set up Ahti Oksanen for a rocket of a one-timer from the top of the right circle. Megan added to the lead seven minutes later when he raced down the left wing and beat Sam Marotta (22 saves) five-hole for his fifth goal of the season.

Merrimack (4-4-1, 3-2-1 HE) cut the lead in half 14 seconds into the third when John Heffernan beat O’Connor (34 saves) short-side. The Warriors kept the pressure on, but couldn’t get another past O’Connor. Evan Rodrigues sealed the victory with 7:14 remaining when he deposited a rebound past a down-and-out Marotta.

What I saw
-The Warriors outshot BU 35-25, but they didn’t generate many quality chances. BU did a great job keeping shots to the outside and clearing out the front of the net when the puck did get there. At the same time, the Warriors just weren’t aggressive enough to really force the issue. They rarely crashed the net or banged away at rebounds, and O’Connor went unharassed for most of the night. Stopping 34 of 35 shots will certainly pad O’Connor’s already impressive stats, but BU’s defense deserves a lot of credit for making most of those saves easy. Both Jack Parker and Mark Dennehy pointed to Merrimack’s dearth of grade-A chances as a key to the game.

-BU had a goal waved off 6:38 into the game. Rodrigues and Megan executed a beautiful give-and-go that ended with Rodrigues appearing to put a shot into the top corner. The shot was ruled a goal on the ice, but replay showed that it hit the post, hit the crossbar and bounced straight down without going completely over the goal line.

-Merrimack later had a goal of its own waved off. With 11:34 left in the game, Shawn Bates kicked a rebound past O’Connor and in, and it was ruled a goal on the ice. The only question was if another Warrior got his stick on the puck before it crossed the line. That would have allowed the goal to stand, but replay showed that the puck went straight in off Bates’ skate, resulting in a no-goal.

What I thought
-BU’s top line of Megan, Hohmann and Rodrigues continued its fantastic start to the season. Hohmann set up the Terriers’ first goal with a great pass, Megan scored the second on a nice rush down the wing, and Rodrigues scored the third by planting himself in front of the net and burying a rebound. Megan’s goal moved him into a temporary tie for the conference lead, while Rodrigues’ was his first of the season. This line has great chemistry, as they just always seem to know where their linemates are going to be. The Terriers knew what they had in Megan, who had 20 goals last season. But the improvement from Hohmann and Rodrigues, who combined for just 20 points last year, has been a huge boost for the BU offense, especially since perennial scorers Matt Nieto and Sahir Gill have yet to really get going.

-The Terriers’ freshman defensemen also continued their impressive start. Matt Grzelcyk, who had two assists Friday night, already looks like a veteran. He made a nice pass off the boards to spring Megan on his goal, then got a shot through from the point to set up Rodrigues’ goal. Beyond that, he was in good position all night and looked calm and confident every time he had the puck. Oksanen had a couple bobbles in his own end, but also looked good for the most part. His goal was an absolute rocket, showing why it’s going to be a bad idea for opponents to leave him open for a one-timer.

-It didn’t result in a win, but the Warriors played well in the third and continued to show that they aren’t going to go away quietly. Coming into Friday night, they had outscored opponents 15-5 in third periods. On Friday, they did outplay BU for most of the third, but they just couldn’t complete the comeback. Now the Warriors just have to start playing better in the first 40 minutes — they’ve been outscored 20-13 in the first two periods this year.

What they said
-BU coach Jack Parker on his top line: “One of the reasons why Rodrigues and Hohmann, two sophomores, are having real good jumps is because Megan’s playing so well with them as a senior and a captain. Having him on their left wing makes things go. I thought he played great tonight. He might’ve been the best player on the ice for us, not just because he figured in the scoring, but because he was up and down all night. He really had his legs. He played really well delivering the puck to the net. He really led the way for us tonight, I thought.”

-Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy: “Just not good enough. I thought we were good at times, but not for the full 60 minutes. I thought we had a tough time getting to grade-A. We had our chances for sure, but we need to play better. I thought they played harder longer than we did.”

What else you should know
-Merrimack hosts Connecticut on Saturday night, while BU will get ready for a marquee showdown against Boston College on Sunday at Agganis Arena.

-These two teams meet for the second game of their season series on Jan. 11.

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