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VIP Takes: Merrimack Deserved a Better Fate in Game 1

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Boston College defeated Merrimack, 1-0, in Game 1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals on Friday night. Merrimack outshot the Eagles 37-13, with Connor Moore’s power-play goal in the second period the only tally.

Exclusively for TMR VIP members, below is Mike McMahon’s period-by-period breakdown, along with some final thoughts.

First Period (0-0)

Merrimack opened the series just the way you would want to open a playoff series on the road, minus a goal. The Warriors utterly dominated possession, outshooting BC 11-2 and I charted scoring chances at 7-1 for the Warriors.

Defensively, Johnathan Kovacevic was a big reason why the Warriors limited the Eagles to just two shots. There were probably a half dozen times in the period where BC was trying to transition through the neutral zone, and Kovacevic broke the play up with his stick. Derek Petti also made several key plays on the backcheck. Merrimack limited BC to just three shot attempts the entire period. That tells you how little they had the puck in the offensive zone.

Joe Woll was big for the Eagles, making 11 saves, and there were some difficult ones. We wrote in our VIP Preview how he gives up some big rebounds, and those second chances were there for the Warriors. Merrimack did a really solid job getting bodies to the net in an attempt to take advantage of those second chances. Woll was just good, making some glove saves on both first and second shots.

When the Eagles were able to get the puck into the zone, Merrimack alleviated that pressure with easy chips off the glass.

Second Period (1-0 Boston College)

I think if you told anyone associated with the Merrimack program that the shot disparity would be 22-6 in favor of the Warriors through two periods, you would have liked your chances. Instead, Merrimack trailed 1-0 after the second period on a BC power-play goal with 2:52 left in the second.

Merrimack had the first nine shots of the period, and at one point were outshooting BC 20-2 for the game. It took BC 37 minutes to register its fourth shot, but it was a big one as Connor Moore scored the power-play goal.

At this point, the difference in the game is really special teams. Merrimack has had two power-play chances and were unable to score on either (registering 4 shots) and BC scored on its only chance of the game up to this point, doubling their shot total from two to four in the process.

Third Period (1-0 Boston College, F)

It wasn’t so much rinse and repeat, as BC seemed to find its legs in the third period Still, the Warriors had plenty of chances, especially on an early power play and again with the goalie pulled in the final two minutes. Yet, it wasn’t enough … BC wins, 1-0.

Merrimack had to kill a 5-on-3 power play in the period that lasted 1:11. I’ll be honest, I respect the call on Aaron Titcomb that gave BC a two-man advantage, but it was still soft (if that makes sense). Titcomb had two hands on his stick when he shoved a BC player in the back along the wall. It wasn’t dangerous by any means, and the BC player — in my opinion — embellished the effects of the shove, but the officials are still going to call that penalty every time. It’s been consistent all year.

Final Thoughts

— I thought Johnathan Kovacevic played his best game of the season. Kovacevic was unstoppable in the neutral zone, breaking up several BC zone entries early in the game. Merrimack had a massive 21-2 shot advantage at one point in this game, and Kovacevic’s play in the neutral zone is a big reason why that was the case. The Eagles had trouble even gaining the zone.

— Merrimack did a better job, especially early, of getting bodies to Joe Woll’s crease.

— There was a scrum on the final faceoff with five seconds left, and BC’s Aapeli Räsänen ended up on the ice and needed help to get up. But, that wasn’t before he took a swipe at Sami Tavernier with his stick, as Tavernier was skating back to the bench. The play was over — the game was over — and Rasanen tried to sweep out Tavernier’s legs. That’s a dirty play.

— Derek Petti, like Kovacevic was key in the early going. I thought his play coming back in the neutral zone on the backcheck was very important early in teh game.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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