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BU and Merrimack tie, 1-1, at Agganis Arena

MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF Junior winger Evan Rodrigues scored BU’s only goal against Merrimack on Saturday. The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie.

MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Junior winger Evan Rodrigues scored BU’s only goal against Merrimack on Saturday. The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie.

This weekend, Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn said, was of the utmost importance.

The four Hockey East points were crucial. Building on recent successes was imperative. And, with a home date with Bentley University next week being the last game of the semester, heading into a three-week layoff on a high note would have been significant.

“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Quinn said Thursday. “There are 20 league games, and here comes games six and seven.”
But by the end of seven, the Boston University men’s hockey team came away with just one of those points — and very little momentum. The Terriers tied Merrimack College, 1-1, at Agganis Arena Saturdaynight, hardly salvaging a weekend home-and-home that featured them dropping Friday’s contest, 3-2.

Sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor — starting in place of classmate Sean Maguire, who missed the game with back issues — made 38 saves, and BU (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East) was buzzing in Merrimack’s zone for much of the five-minute overtime. None of its six shots found the back of the net.

The Warriors (4-9-2, 1-5-2 Hockey East) finished with a 39-24 shot advantage in a continuation of a season-long trend. BU allows an average of 37 shots on goal per game while garnering fewer than 27.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen us that flat and that emotionless as we were in the first 35, 36 minutes,” Quinn said. “We finally started spending some time in the offensive zone, we started skating, playing with a little bit of passion, little bit of enthusiasm. It’s hard in the middle of a hockey game to become enthusiastic and play with passion. I thought we did that.”

Merrimack mostly controlled in the first period, but fortunately for the Terriers, that trend didn’t start until a couple of minutes in.

BU took advantage of those opening moments when junior winger Evan Rodrigues scored a goal — his first since the season opener on Oct. 11 — at the 1:47 mark. He took a pass from freshman center Robbie Baillargeon, skated into the slot and rang one off the pipe for the 1-0 lead.

Freshman winger Brendan Collier was awarded the secondary assist on the play, his first point in the scarlet and white.

“I’m really happy with where he is at,” Quinn said of Rodrigues. “It was good to see him get rewarded for all of the hard work he has put in over the last month. And again, we are going to need him to be effective. We are going to need him to be a point producer if we are going to have success.”

Shots were heavily in favor of the Warriors throughout the first two frames — at one point the scoreboard read 27-4 — and the visitors finally capitalized 5:53 into the second when freshman Chris LeBlanc tipped a soft wrister on goal from the top of the circle. The shot snuck through everyone cleanly before deflecting off LeBlanc’s stick to beat O’Connor stick-side.

The Terriers picked up the pace in the third, but to no avail outside of 10 shots, more than they had in the first two periods combined.

Sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk finished with a game-high eight shots.

“He was our best defenseman tonight,” said senior captain Garrett Noonan, himself a defenseman. “He took the game over and he played awesome.”

BU’s penalty kill was effective the four times it was called into action, including thrice in the third period.
That was not particularly surprising for Quinn, who was very high on the kill units after a strong week of practice.

“It was almost like when we got the penalty kill, it was almost like we relaxed a little bit and we started skating,” Quinn said. “I almost didn’t put another guy out there after [the penalized player] came out. I said, ‘Let’s just go with four for now and see how this works.”

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