In its Hockey East opener at Merrimack College, the Warriors (1-3, 1-0 Hockey East) notched two quick goals en-route to the 4-0 win over the Boston University men’s hockey team Saturday night at Lawler Rink in North Andover.
The game was also the third consecutive road game to start the Terriers’ (0-3, 0-1 Hockey East) 2018-19 season.
BU head coach Albie O’Connell said he commended Merrimack’s play.
“Merrimack played a good game,” O’Connell said. “[You have to] tip your cap. The special teams were good, they scored a couple power-play goals and their penalty kill was good. That ended up being the difference in the game.”
Fresh off getting swept last weekend at No. 7 Minnesota State University, Mankato, O’Connell’s side entered Saturday looking to continue their recent success over the Warriors.
In the 2017-18 campaign, BU swept Merrimack 3-0 on its way to a Hockey East championship.
Despite ending Saturday’s game winning the shots (56-40) and shots-on-goal battle (34-28), the Terriers could not find that game-changing goal against senior goaltender Craig Pantano.
“You have to tip the cap to their goalie,” O’Connell said. “He made some big saves. Made the one on [BU senior forward and captain Bobo Carpenter] on the backdoor and there was a couple of saves throughout the night that he did a good job on. They also did a good job of running [with] their second chances.”
Just over three minutes into play, the Terriers found themselves trailing. After intense pressure on Terriers’ junior goaltender and assistant captain Jake Oettinger, Merrimack senior forward and captain Michael Babcock took the second-chance opportunity and slotted it by the BU junior to put his team up 1-0.
After that goal, the Warriors made the game more intense — they were constantly harassing the BU backline, and numerous brief scuffles broke out between the two sides.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, Merrimack’s persistence was eventually rewarded. At 7:06 in the first period, Warriors junior forward Logan Coomes collected the pass from his teammates freshmen forwards Logan Drevitch and Jordan Seyfret and converted the goal. BU’s deficit grew to 2-0.
“I think [playing with more intensity] is only way you’re going to have success against [the Terriers] in the first place is by playing harder than they do,” Scott Borek, Merrimack’s first-year head coach said. “They’re an incredibly skilled team, but they’re [also] an incredibly young team.”
By the first period’s completion, the Terriers lost the shots battle 25–17 and saw Merrimack go 1-for-2 on power-play opportunities.
To start the second period, the Warriors came out with that same drive, and had it pay off. Three minutes after intermission, Merrimack was awarded another power play chance.
Defenseman and assistant captain Johnathan Kovacevic made the most of it, as the junior got by Oettinger to increase the Warriors’ advantage to 3-0.
Shortly after that goal, O’Connell substituted redshirt junior goaltender Max Prawdzik in for the struggling Oettinger. In over 16 minutes of play, the Andover native stopped five shots while shutting out the relentless Merrimack attack.
Prawdzik’s timely costs led to more consistent efforts from the BU frontline. The Terriers finished the second period winning the shots battle 19-7, but could not sneak one by Pantano.
With 2:18 remaining in the contest, Merrimack sophomore forward Laine McKay scored an empty-net goal to prolong the Terriers’ misery.
“I think, from our standpoint, we’ve been a little disappointed in our performance thus far [this season],” Borek added. “Tonight we kind of just emptied the tank. Results haven’t been what we wanted, but lets empty the tank tonight and I think we did that.”
By the game’s end, the Terriers left North Andover still winless under O’Connell, and lost to the Warriors for the first time since Jan. 27 last year.
For O’Connell and Co., the pursuit toward the coach’s inaugural victory will have to come Friday against No. 5 Providence College, who BU defeated last season 2-0 to win the Hockey East title.
“I told the guys, ‘Look, we’re a couple games in [this season],” O’Connell said. “We got a lot of growth to go as a team. We have to get a lot better in a lot of areas.”