The ‘face wash’ ‘-‘- rubbing a sweaty, stinky glove hand in an opponent’s face ‘-‘- is generally a sign of disrespect in hockey. But when senior Matt Gilroy put his hand on Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker’s forehead and messed up his hair after Friday’s 3-1 win over Merrimack College, it was a sign of endearment and appreciation for the legendary coach.
In a career full of milestones, Parker reached yet another ‘-‘- 800 wins ‘-‘- when the No. 2 Terriers (19-5-1, 12-5-1 Hockey East) dropped the Warriors (5-15-3, 2-13-2) at Lawler Arena, running their winning streak to five games.
Gilroy had a goal and an assist, and sophomore Colin Wilson picked up two helpers as BU continued to roll in its final game before facing Harvard University in the opening round of the Beanpot Tournament on Monday.
Though he had made the same walk to center ice to shake hands with opposing coaches after 799 wins before Friday, victory No. 800 gave Parker cause to reflect on his 36 years of coaching at BU.
‘I’m old. I’ve been here a long time. That’s the reason why you win 800 games,’ Parker said.
‘Over these 36 years, I’ve had fabulous assistant coaches and a lot of great players. I was talking to the Merrimack basketball coach before the game, and he said, ‘You’re having a great year.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we’re having a great year.’ He said, ‘Players make a difference, don’t they?”
The Terriers have won two national championships (1978 and 1995) with Parker at the helm, and this year’s squad is playing like a serious contender to deliver him a third. Gilroy, Parker’s defensive captain alongside senior forward John McCarthy, led an undermanned blue line into North Andover Friday night after senior d-man Brian Strait became ill after pregame warmups.
Skating with just five defensemen, the Terriers utilized a conservative forecheck so the forwards could lend help to Gilroy’s group, which allowed the defensemen to limit Merrimack’s quality shots.’
‘They got some shots on the power-play looks, but they didn’t get a lot of good opportunities five-on-five,’ Parker said. ‘We did a good job in front of our net, in front of grade-A, of not giving up a lot of good shots.’
BU pressured junior goalie Andrew Braithwaite throughout the first frame, but it was not until 16:22 into the period that the team capitalized. A Gilroy wrist shot from just above the right circle found its way through traffic ‘-‘- including leaping senior Jason Lawrence ‘-‘- and into the Warriors’ net to open the scoring.
Penalties were an issue all night for Merrimack, as the active Terrier forwards induced one hooking call after another, amounting to 13 power-play opportunities for BU. A minute after Gilroy’s goal, junior Merrimack defenseman Pat Bowen was hauled off for slashing to set up the Terrier man-advantage.
Sophomore Nick Bonino found senior Brandon Yip with his stick raised outside the left circle, and the winger buried the shot at 17:34.
BU outshot Merrimack, 11-4, in the second, but the Warriors fought back in the final period. With Lawrence hobbling after taking a Karl Stollery slap shot off the shin, Merrimack junior Rob Ricci’s shot from the point found twine past freshman Kieran Millan to cut the lead to 2-1 at 4:26. The rookie improved his goals-against average to 1.46 (third in the nation) and save percentage to .937 (fifth).
Before Merrimack could do any more damage, sophomore Colby Cohen took a feed from Wilson and fired it past Braithwaite just three minutes after Ricci’s goal. Millan stayed busy in net through the third, but fended off everything else that came his way to push his record to 15-1-1 as a starter.
The only coaches with more career wins than Parker (800-411-98 career) are Ron Mason (924) and Jerry York (814).’
After the game, Parker admitted that the impact of milestone victories doesn’t hit until long after they occur.
‘I know I remember the first [win], but that’s the only one I remember right now of any milestones. I probably won’t remember this one until it’s all said and done,’ Parker said. ‘801 is more important now.’