NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – There was no blown lead this time. Two nights after seeing a 5-2 third-period lead turn into a 6-5 overtime loss to Harvard, Boston University picked up a 4-1 win over Merrimack. Wade Megan led the way with a goal and an assist, and he was the one who opened the scoring 12:20 into the first on a shorthanded goal. The Terrier captain picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, beat two Merrimack (7-9-4, 5-5-1 Hockey East) defenders, and fired a wrist shot over Rasmus Tirronen’s glove.
Sahir Gill made it 2-0 BU 3:51 into the second when he found some space at the top of the crease and redirected a nice slap pass from Alexx Privitera. The Terriers (12-7-0, 9-4-0 HE) upped the lead to 3-0 later in the period. Megan led a rush down the left wing before sending a saucer pass to the front that Cason Hohmann poked past Tirronen. Matt Nieto added to the lead midway through the third when he buried a pass from Evan Rodrigues. The Warriors finally got on the board with 6:22 left in the game when Kyle Bigos fired a slap shot through traffic.
What I saw
-BU blocked 25 shots, led by an incredible nine-block effort from Alexx Privitera. Privitera missed BU’s previous two games after he kicked a Denver player on Dec. 29 — the penalty itself came with an automatic one-game suspension, and BU coach Jack Parker tacked on an extra game for good measure. Privitera certainly came back hungry on Friday. In addition to the nine blocks, he also had a nice assist on Gill’s goal. Privitera now has 52 blocks on the season, while defensive partner Sean Escobedo has 50. No other Terrier has more than 23.
-The Terriers hit three pipes on their first two power plays. With Bigos in the box late in the first, Ahti Oksanen rang a one-timer off the crossbar from the right circle. Later on that man advantage, Danny O’Regan found Nieto on the right doorstep with a cross-box pass, but Nieto hit the post. With Dan Kolomatis in the box in the second period, Nieto found Evan Rodrigues cutting to the net. Tirronen stopped Rodrigues’ first shot, and Rodrigues hit the post on the follow-up attempt.
-With 16 penalty minutes on the night, Kyle Bigos broke both the Merrimack and Hockey East career penalty minutes records. The first penalty, which broke the Merrimack record, was for slashing Wade Megan while Megan was already down on the ice. Then he and Garrett Noonan took matching hitting after the whistle penalties during the ensuing scrum. Bigos broke the Hockey East record with 3:57 left in the game, when he and Sam Kurker took matching two-minute roughing penalties and 10-minute misconducts. Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said after the game that a third of Bigos’ penalties won’t be penalties at the professional level. Bigos has certainly been the victim of being bigger and stronger than everyone else on the ice at times, but he’s also earned a lot of those penalties.
What I thought
-Even though shots on goal were 29-19 Merrimack after two, the Terriers had more quality chances. They did a much better job of going hard to the net and generating shots from in close. At the other end, the Warriors were forced to settle for shots from the outside, and they didn’t do a good enough job of setting screens or crashing the net for rebounds. That difference in the quality of chances was reflected on the shot chart. BU had 15 shot attempts from the grade-A area through two periods, while Merrimack had just seven. The Warriors did a better job generating quality chances in the third, but it was too little too late.
-Wade Megan was named the game’s first star, and he absolutely deserved it. He had a goal and an assist, but that really only begins to tell the story. He led at least a handful of rushes into the offensive zone, and made good decisions with the puck on pretty much all of them. His goal came on a great individual effort, while his assist came from good patience and a nice pass toward the front. Megan was noticeable in the defensive zone, too, as there were several times when he dropped below the faceoff dots to help break the puck out. Megan missed BU’s game against Rensselaer last Friday with a shoulder injury, but he’s showing no lingering effects now.
-Sean Maguire stopped 37 of 38 shots for BU, and may have won the starting job for the time being as a result. Matt O’Connor has given up six goals in each of his last two starts, and five or more in three of his last four. Maguire, meanwhile, has allowed just five goals total in his last five starts. He has a .966 save percentage during that stretch. O’Connor was better early in the season, but he’s clearly hit a rough patch over the last few weeks. There’s no reason to think O’Connor won’t be a very good goalie again in the future, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ride Maguire until he gives the coaches a reason not to.
What they said
-BU coach Jack Parker: “What a difference two days make. We played the right way tonight. We played hard. We played competitive. We played a team that’s really hard to beat at home, and we knew that coming in. We certainly respected our opponent, and we were ready to play tonight. I really saw it coming. I was so happy with the way we practiced yesterday. Nobody had a hangover about what we did to ourselves against Harvard. They wanted to come back. They couldn’t wait to come back and try to redeem themselves. They did more than that tonight. This was a huge win for us.”
-Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy: “I thought they did a good job taking advantage of their opportunities. They make it very hard to get to the net. That was a goal of ours. I didn’t think we worked hard enough in the first period to do that. I thought in the second and third, we did. There was definitely a step up in terms of our play in the third period, but it’s not acceptable. We need to play that way before. I thought we had plenty of chances. I just didn’t get the sense that we were ready for them. When we had them, we made soft plays. We didn’t make strong, confident plays until the third period.”
What else you should know
-With the win, the Terriers moved ahead of New Hampshire for second place in the conference. The Wildcats do have a game in hand, though.
-The Warriors lost ground to Providence, who beat Massachusetts on Friday, in the race for the fourth and final home-ice spot. They now sit three points back with a game in hand.
-Friday night marked the first conference game of the season in which Merrimack’s Mike Collins didn’t have a point.