BOSTON – In Jack Parker’s final home game, Boston University beat Merrimack 5-3 to advance to the Hockey East semifinals for the 11th time in the last 12 years. Ben Rosen broke a 3-3 tie 5:11 into the third when he took in a nice backhand pass from Matt Lane and beat Sam Marotta on a second effort. The Terriers shut down Merrimack for the remainder of the game and will now face archrival Boston College in the late game on Friday. They will most likely need to win to make NCAAs.
What I saw
-A crazy second period. BU tied the score at one 1:31 into the period when Danny O’Regan fed a charging Matt Nieto, but Merrimack retook the lead three minutes later when Mike Collins shot through a Josh Myers screen for the Warriors’ second power-play goal of the game. The end of the period was even more frantic than the start, though. Cason Hohmann scored on the power play to tie the game with 3:48 to go. Then John Gustafsson capitalized on a BU turnover to make it 3-2 Merrimack with 1:20 left. Not to be outdone, the Terriers took advantage of a late power play when Sam Kurker jammed a loose puck past Marotta.
-BU’s third line factored into two goals, providing some much-needed depth scoring. Lane set up Rosen for the winner, and Kurker scored the tying goal late in the second while serving as a net-front presence on the power play. That line’s primary responsibility is to check and play defense, which they do well, but it’s a big boost for BU when they can chip in on offense as well. Kurker’s goal was his first since Dec. 6, and Rosen’s was his first since Feb. 1.
What I thought
-Once they got up 4-3, the Terriers did a great job of preventing Merrimack from generating quality chances. They kept the Warriors to the outside, did a good job getting to rebounds, and kept it simple when it came to clearing the zone. By my count, Merrimack had just one grade-A chance in the nearly 15 minutes following Rosen’s go-ahead goal. The Terriers have had problems holding onto leads this year, but they executed very well in the third period on Saturday.
-Despite a tough stretch to close out the season, the Warriors have a lot to be optimistic about heading into next year. They surpassed everyone’s expectations this year and were in contention for the regular-season title with just two weeks left in the season. They lose just four seniors, and none of those four are irreplaceable. Barring anything unforeseen, they’ll return their top 10 scorers and both goalies who saw playing time this year. Mike Collins and Jordan Heywood are already two of the conference’s best players, and there’s no reason to think they can’t improve even more as seniors next year.
What they said
-BU coach Jack Parker: “It was a heck of a college hockey game to watch. It was a fabulous game to watch. Bizarre that they score so late in the second period and then we come right back and score again. I think that was obviously the big goal. If they could’ve gotten out of the period up… We had lost the first period. We came back and won the second period. It was big that we got that goal. I thought everybody played hard. I thought both teams played really smart hockey and really intense hockey.”
-Parker on coaching his final home game: “It kind of felt weird tonight, that this was my last game at a BU rink. It didn’t dawn on me in the press conference (on Monday) because I knew had to go to practice the next day. It was weird. … I didn’t think of it until they said, ‘Do you want to say something to the crowd?’ My first thought was, ‘For what?’ Then I realized, ‘Oh yeah, you won’t cross here again.’”
-Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, before taking questions: “I’d like to start by just saying what an honor it was to coach against Jack Parker. He’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come back to Hockey East, to coach against the likes of Coach Parker and Coach York and Coach Umile. I had the pleasure of coaching with Don Cahoon, which gave me a little bit of access, for a BC guy, into what BU’s all about. The game will take an absolute hit with his departure. Pretty big shoes to fill.”
-Dennehy on the game: “I thought we played much better tonight than we did last night. We gave ourselves a chance to win. Some great efforts by a lot of people. I thought Sam made some really big saves when he needed to. It just wasn’t enough.”
What else you should know
-Merrimack’s first goal ended Sean Maguire’s shutout streak at 151:22. That’s the fifth-longest shutout streak in BU history.
-The Terriers moved up to 17th in the Pairwise right after their win, but as some other games have gone final, they’ve dropped back down to 19th.