NORTH ANDOVER — Quinn Smith found an opening on a rebound with 2:32 remaining in overtime as Boston College beat Merrimack College, 2-1, in OT on Sunday afternoon at Lawler Arena.
Parker Milner made 43 saves for the Eagles while Sam Marotta stopped 26 shots for the Warriors, including two of the best saves you’ll see all season in the third period, robbing both Bill Arnold and Danny Linell of point-blank opportunities.
Shawn Bates scored Merrimack’s only goal in the first period, hammering home a loose puck in the crease after his initial shot was blockered away by Milner.
The Warriors fall into fourth place in Hockey East, one point back of a three-way tie for first between BC, New Hampshire and Providence. Merrimack suffered a devastating loss in the Pairwise rankings, falling from 18th to 23rd. Boston College meanwhile, climbed to No. 4.
What I saw
– Parker Milner made some really big stops, including a breakaway against Josh Myers in the third period. Sam Marotta made two of the most impressive saves you’ll see all season, robbing Bill Arnold with a diving stick save in the third period before stealing a goal from Danny Linell later in the period, again moving side-to-side and gloving a point-blank one-timer.
– Boston College stretched more than I can ever remember seeing so in the past. Johnny Gaudreau was even stretching for portions of a penalty kill in the first period. Gaudreau is scary as it is, but in a one-on-one situation with some open space, it’s a nightmare for almost anyone trying to defend him. It was surprising though to see him stretching on the PK.
– Merrimack junior Shawn Bates had 11 shots on goal. No, that’s not a misprint. This was the first time all year that the Warriors lost a game in which Bates registered at least one point.
– At home this season, Sam Marotta is 6-3-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Sunday was Marotta’s first loss this month. In February, the junior now has a record of 4-1-1 with a 1.17 GAA and a .963 save percentage.
– Merrimack won 55 of the game’s 90 faceoffs, with Rhett Bly leading the way (17 for 21). Bates (14 for 22) was second best on the team. BC did not have a single player that won more draws than he lost.
– Steven Whitney’s first-period goal – his 20th of the season and 10th in 10 games – was a beautiful wrister from the left circle.
What I thought
– A few mistakes proved to be costly for the Warriors.
First, let’s look at the OT goal for BC. After the initial shot was stopped by Sam Marotta’s right pad, two Merrimack defenders crashed on Brooks Dyroff, trying to get to the loose puck. But, Quinn Smith was trailing and the puck fell right on his stick for the easy game-winner, with Marotta knocked over trying to move side-to-side. Also, on the Warriors’ 5-on-3 power play in the third period, an errant pass landed right on the stick of Patrick Brown, who was able to dump it down ice and, after BC got a player back, kept the puck mostly pinned down MC’s end despite still killing.
– Johnny Gaudreau is the best player on BC’s team, and he might be the best player in the country. But, don’t look past Steven Whitney, whose first-period goal was his 20th of the season and his 10th in the last 10 games. Whitney is a “three-zone player,” as BC head coach Jerry York described him after the game. That’s what made BC’s penalty kill in the third period even more impressive, getting the job done with perhaps their best defensive forward sitting in the box.
What the said
– “He’s what I like to call a three-zone player,” BC head coach Jerry York describing Steven Whitney.
– “We didn’t mark a guy,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy explained of BC’s game-winner. “We went to the puck instead of neutralizing the player. It’s hard to be disciplined in that area, but if you aren’t, it can end up in the back of the net, like it did right there to us.”
-“We had one good look,” Dennehy said of Merrimack’s 5-on-3 in the third period. “We weren’t executing. The puck wasn’t zipping around. Their penalty kill was excellent, but we had an unforced error on that 5-on-3, put it right on their guy’s stick, and that’s unacceptable. That’s not being thorough. It’s signs we were not completely locked in.”