Ice Hockey, Sports

No. 3 Terriers open postseason with trouncing of Warriors

The Agganis Arena scoreboard failed to reveal much at the end of the first period.

The No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team was locked in a 1-1 deadlock with Merrimack College, but the Terriers (22-7-5) controlled the pace of play throughout the opening frame — outshooting the Warriors (16-17-4) by an 18-4 margin and generating sustained pressure in its opponent’s zone.

Jack Eichel had two goals and an assist against Merrimack on Friday. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO
Jack Eichel had two goals and an assist against Merrimack on Friday. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO

In the second frame, BU’s aggressive, up-tempo style of play remained the same.

The score, however, did not.

Boosted by four goals in the second period, the Terriers steamrolled the Warriors, 6-2, Friday night at Agganis Arena, handing the scarlet and white a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.

With the victory, the Terriers need to secure one more win against the Warriors in order to advance to Hockey East semifinal play next weekend at TD Garden.

“Great win for us,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “You always wonder how you’re gonna react to having two weeks off and having a bye over weekend. I thought we responded. I thought we were ready to go from the drop of the puck.”

Once again, BU’s top line did the heavy lifting on offense, with senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues tallying four points, while freshman center Jack Eichel chipped in three. Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor notched 17 saves en route to his 19th win of the season.

Both Eichel and junior forward Danny O’Regan tallied their 20th goal of the year Friday night. Along with junior forward Ahti Oksanen, the trio is the first BU group to score at least 20 goals in the same season since Jay Pandolfo, Chris Drury, Mike Grier and Shawn Bates all lit the lamp over 20 times during the 1995-96 campaign.

Merrimack netminder Rasmus Tirronen was able to curtail a flurry of Terrier attempts in the first, holding BU to one goal off of 18 shots. The second period would play out in a different fashion for the Finnish goalie.

An impressive feed from Rodrigues to O’Regan resulted in BU’s first strike in the frame, a result of an impressive backhand offering off the stick of O’Regan that sailed into Merrimack’s cage.

The Terriers’ forward corps profited again at 14:11, with Eichel potting a rebound past Tirronen to build a two-goal cushion.

Goals from Rodrigues and junior forward Matt Lane — both off of rebound offerings in the final three minutes of the stanza — capped BU’s second-period outburst.

Rodrigues, who lifted his 2014-15 point total to 53 Friday night, is the first BU senior to post at least 50 points in a season since Drury hit 57 in 1997-98.

The first 20 minutes of play paled in comparison to the bombastic second frame, but both teams were still able to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the opening moments of the match.

Merrimack struck first, with center Vinny Scotti capitalizing on a turnover from BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk behind the Terrier net. Scotti sent the puck up to freshman Jace Hennig in the slot, who fired the shot past O’Connor to hand Merrimack a 1-0 lead at 8:11.

The Warriors’ early lead would not last for long, however, as sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon’s one-timer from the left point found Merrimack netting less than two minutes later, pushing the game back into a evened score.

Both squads traded barbs in the third, with both Eichel and Hennig scoring their second goals on the night, but the final period was mostly uneventful — only 12 total shots made their way to the net for both teams.

Coming off of nearly two weeks without game action, there remained a chance of possible rust in the Terriers’ play during Friday’s match. For Eichel, the extra time off led to a completely different result. It certainly showed.

“Well I mean we had a weekend off so I think we were able to recharge, rejuvenate, get healthy and I think everyone was pretty excited for this weekend,” Eichel said. “We finished the season the way we wanted with a good win at Northeastern [University], we just wanted to carry that momentum into tonight and I think we did that.”

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I spend my days serving as Sports Editor of The Daily Free Press, covering BU Hockey and finding more ways to worship Tom Brady. Previous experience includes covering the Red Sox and Bruins for and writing for South Boston Today. Follow me on Twitter: @ConorRyan_93

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