CHESTNUT HILL — Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said he couldn’t ask for anything more from his players.
Ed. Note — This story will run in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
Merrimack fell, 4-3, to Boston College in overtime in Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals last night at Conte Forum. The loss ends Merrimack’s season at 12-21-4, but the Warriors gave No. 1 seed Boston College everything they had, outshooting the Eagles 33-22 in Game 2 and doubled up BC in shots, 70-35, over the two games.
“We put ourselves in position to win either game,” Dennehy said, “but we didn’t. I believe the hockey gods even off puck bounces, and we might still be owed a couple for this season. Not necessarily tonight, BC deserved to win, but we put ourselves in position to win both nights and we just couldn’t close it out.”
Chris Grando scored the overtime winner for BC while Merrimack was on the power play. The penalty to Casey Fitzgerald came when Merrimack sophomore Sami Tavernier had space on a breakaway but was held up.
On the power play, BC defenseman Connor Moore stepped up to keep the puck out of the BC zone and it fluttered down ice. Grando was racing for it with two Merrimack defenders. After the Warriors tried to swipe the puck to the wall, it was lifted up off the ice and Grando was able to connect on a slap shot despite the puck hovering about three inches above the ice, according to BC head coach Jerry York.
“The hand-eye coordination was unbelievable,” York said after watching the goal on video.
After a scoreless first period that saw Merrimack outshoot the Eagles 9-5, Mike Booth but BC on the board at the 12:02 mark of the second period. Then just over three minutes later, JD Dudek doubled that lead for the Eagles, banging in his own rebound after Merrimack was unable to clear the puck from the ice in front of Craig Pantano.
No strangers to battling back from deficits in these playoffs, Merrimack began chipping away at the BC lead 19 seconds after Dudek’s goal, when Johnathan Kovacevic sent a shot towards that net that deflected off a BC defender in front and snuck past BC netminder Joe Woll. Then with 26.3 seconds left in the second period, Sami Tavernier sent a shot towards Woll’s net from the right-wing board while losing his balance and his center, Ludvig Larsson, tipped it past Woll in front.
“(BC) did a better job in the middle of the rink,” Dennehy said. “We got their best tonight. Yesterday they were trying to bring pucks into our zone and tonight they were more geared towards dumping it and putting pressure on us with the forecheck. We handled it well at times.”
BC would again take the lead at the 4:14 mark of the third period after the Warriors misplayed a puck at their own blue line, leading to an odd-man rush for the Eagles.
With their backs against the wall, the Warriors tied the game with 4:55 remaining in the third period. Logan Coomes made a read on the left side and found Alfred Larsson with a pass; the Merrimack senior sent the puck towards the net and Tyler Irvine jammed it past Woll in front.
That set up overtime, and Grando’s heroics for the Eagles.
“Give Merrimack a ton of credit,” added BC head coach Jerry York. “They’ve been a tough team to play over the years and this stretch they’ve been on — beating Lowell in two overtime games and battling us tooth and nail for a chance to go to the Garden, hats off to them.”
BC moves on in the Hockey East playoffs and will face cross-town rival Boston University on Friday at 5 p.m. at TD Garden. Northeastern and Providence will play in the second semifinal, scheduled for 8 p.m. The two winners will decide the Hockey East champion on Saturday night.
Boston College 4, Merrimack 3 (OT) Boston College wins series, 2-0 Merrimack (12-21-4): 0-2-1-0—3 Boston College (20-13-3): 0-2-1-1—4 1st Period Scoring - None Penalties - None 2nd Period Scoring - 1, BC Mike Booth/1 (Logan Hutsko/18, Michael Kim/14) 12:02 2, BC JD Dudek/7 (Christopher Grando/12) 15:20 3, MER Johnathan Kovacevic/3 (Logan Coomes/7, Alfred Larsson/8) 15:39 4, MER Ludvig Larsson/13 (Sami Tavernier/13, Jared Kolquist/20) 19:33.7 (PP) Penalties - David Cotton, BC (Roughing) 19:08 3rd Period Scoring - 5, BC Julius Mattila/12 (Logan Hutsko/19, Michael Kim/15) 4:14 6, MER Tyler Irvine/5 (Alfred Larsson/9, Logan Coomes/8) 15:05 Penalties - Aapeli Räsänen, BC (Holding) 5:56 Overtime Scoring - 7, BC Christopher Grando/6 (Connor Moore/12) 4:20 (SH) (GW) Penalties - Casey Fitzgerald, BC (Hooking) 3:15 Merrimack Goaltending - Craig Pantano (64:20, 22 shots, 18 saves, 4 GA) Boston College Goaltending - Joseph Woll (64:20, 33 shots, 30 saves, 3 GA) Win - Joseph Woll, BC (17-10-2). Loss - Craig Pantano, MER (11-14-2). Shots On Goal - MER 9-13-9-2=33; BC 5-8-7-2=22 Power Plays - MER 1 of 3; BC 0 of 0 Penalties - MER 0 (0 min); BC 3 (6 min)