BOSTON — Boston University goaltender Sean Maguire made 30 saves, and Matt Nieto scored a goal and added an assist to help the Terriers to a 3-0 win over Merrimack Friday night. The win gave BU a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Game 2 is Saturday night at 7 p.m. from Agganis Arena.
After a scoreless first period, Wade Megan broke through at 6 minutes, 10 seconds of the second period. The senior redirected a shot from Ahti Oksanen over the blocker of Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta. Nieto added his own 10 minutes later. A power-play goal from grinder Ryan Santana extended the lead to 3-0 55 seconds into the third period.
Marotta made 42 saves for the Warriors, but he didn’t receive much support from his teammates. The Warriors created little pressure in front of Maguire and failed to generated any second- and third-chance opportunities. In the second period, they recorded no shots from the grade-A on Maguire.
What I Saw
- Merrimack was far too content to stay on the perimeter. Maguire did well to avoid allowing many of these chances. There were some there, however, and the Warriors avoided battling for them. Based solely on talent, Merrimack cannot compete with BU. The Warriors have to win this series by scoring ugly goals. They looked entirely disinterested in doing that Friday night.
- The line of Nieto-Danny O’Regan-Evan Rodrigues continued to terrify defensemen on Friday. Nieto’s goal came off a rush and fantastic pass to the slot by Rodrigues. The group appeared to have another goal earlier, but the slightest goalie interference on O’Regan resulted in the goal being discounted. Since late January, the line has led BU’s offense. They look the part as well.
- Marotta deserved a better performance from his team on Friday night. BU forwards swarmed the net and peppered Marotta with shot after shot. Marotta’s teammates were content with poor shots that did little to test Maguire. Making 42 saves in a playoff game typically means overtime. Friday night, it just meant a group of skaters uncommitted to a clear game plan and a goaltender desperately trying to keep his team in the game.
What I Thought
- Everything Merrimack needed to do and didn’t was pretty clear, especially when comparing the first three minutes of the game to the rest of it. Early on, the Warriors pressured BU well and created a few chances early, including a shot from freshman John Gustafsson that hit the post. As soon as BU started passing more efficiently out of its own zone, the Warriors had no answer.
- Matt Grzelcyk’s potential ankle injury at the end of the second period looked quite troubling. Grzelcyk and Merrimack’s Kyle Singleton chased a puck in the BU zone. Battling for positioning, their legs were tangled, and Grzelcyk went skate first into the boards. He skated off without too much of an issue, but he played the third period without much of an issue. According to BU coach Jack Parker, Grzelcyk should be fine for Saturday night, but these injuries have a way of flaring up.
- BU’s bottom six continued to contribute well to their more talented counterparts. Santana’s goal in the third period put the game away for BU. His line of Mike Moran and Jake Moscatel don’t see substantial ice time. The difference they make comes during the few chances they get as a group. Santana sees time on the power play and penalty kill, so his influence is greater. As a unit, they aren’t going to put up great stats. Playing aggressively and forcing Merrimack into difficult defensive shifts is their job in this series. They did that well on Friday.
What They Said
“I think the next game’s important for them. I think they’d like to get to the Garden. I don’t think you can alk about the next two weeks. … I think it’s one step. … Nobody wants to lose their last game, and everyone loses their last game except the national champion. So no matter when it happens it’s a tough pill to swallow. … The guillotine, you know? I think everybody’s trying to postpone the guillotine. I know I am.” — BU coach Jack Parker
BU coach Jack Parker and his seniors have at least one thing in common. This will be their last chance for Hockey East and national championships. Parker announced his retirement earlier this week, and graduation is coming for his leaders. The group came to BU a season following the program’s last national championship. They’ve yet to win any major trophies in their career. The next few weeks may ultimately define their legacy at BU. It starts with a win Saturday night to clinch a spot in the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden next Friday.
What They Didn’t Say
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy wasn’t overly pleased with his team following the game. For the most part, the Warriors’ offense is by committee, but junior Mike Collins is its unquestioned leader. He’s the only player on the club with more than 19 points on the season. Friday, he was largely absent from the game. Collins has just one goal in nine games. The Warriors didn’t have much of an offensive showing Friday. Collins needs to find a way to rectify this to avoid a sweep Saturday night.
What Else You Should Know
- BU has played a third game in its last six Hockey East quarterfinal series.
- Merrimack is now 0-4-0 against BU this season. The Warriors haven’t had a lead against the Terriers at any point this year.
- BU dropped to No. 19 in the Parwise despite the win because the loss dropped Merrimack from the TUC Cliff. BU loses four wins against TUCs as a result, which flipped a number of comparisons against the Terriers.