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VIP Takes: Merrimack Didn’t Just Hang with BC, They Outplayed Them

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Merrimack fell to Boston College, 4-3, in overtime of Game 2 on Saturday night at Conte Forum. The loss will end Merrimack’s season at 12-21-4, while the Eagles advance to the Hockey East semifinals on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston.

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

Opening Statement

If you told me that through two games of this series, Merrimack would outshoot BC 70-35, I would have asked you how many goals they won by both nights.

Instead, Merrimack never had the lead in the series. Hockey can be cruel, sometimes.

You could not have battled any harder than this Merrimack did for two nights against Boston College, on the road. I know this wasn’t a typical BC team that blows teams out of the water on a nightly basis, but this is still a BC team that has managed to win 20 games this season. The Eagles were the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East tournament, and could be close to advancing to the NCAAs, despite what many would term a “down year” on Chestnut Hill.

The Warriors battled about as hard as a team could battle, outshooting BC 70-35 in two games, and losing both nights.

Hockey can be cruel, sometimes.

First Period

Just like Friday night, Merrimack came out and controlled most of the opening 20 minutes. The Warriors three shots on their first shift, which set the tone for a period where Merrimack outshot BC, 9-5. The Warriors have outshot BC in every period of this series. That said, BC had more chances than they did in the first on Friday night, but I thought Merrimack actually had higher-quality chances.

Second Period

The action was fast and furious in the second period. The Eagles took the 1-0 lead at the 12:02 mark and then doubled that lead three minutes later. However, Merrimack’s resiliency again showed, as the Warriors cut the deficit to 2-1 only 19 seconds after BC took a 2-0 lead, and the Warriors tied the score with 26.3 seconds left in the period.

The Merrimack goals were a direct result of the Warriors getting more bodies to Woll’s net. That’s been a theme for the Warriors the entire weekend, and it finally paid off. Despite numerous good chances, it took until Merrimack’s 52nd shot of the weekend to finally solve Woll, and then the floodgates opened a bit after that. Part of that could have been confidence — “we finally solved this guy!” — or some jitters from Woll, who was under Merrimack pressure for most of the game’s first 100 minutes.

BC’s second goal in particular was a case of Merrimack not taking care of the puck well enough in their own end. But, the Warriors allowing that second goal also seemed to trigger something from a desperation standpoint, because Merrimack crashed the net hard on the ensuing shift, making it a one-goal game again.

Merrimack’s second goal was also the wakeup call the power play needed, scoring their first goal on the PP since Feb. 16 against UNH.

Third Period

Well, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this Merrimack team the last two weeks, it’s that they won’t go quietly.

BC took the lead back at the 4:14 mark of the period. The Warriors misplayed a puck at their own blue line — uncharacteristically, given how well their D has performed in this series — and it resulted in BC going the other way with numbers. The Eagles took advantage, with Julius Mattila getting the goal.

But, the Warriors again fought back.

With 7:59 left in the period, the officials reviewed a hit that Brett Seney laid on Aapeli Rasanen. There was no penalty on the ice, but Rasanen was banged up on the play near the wall. After a very length review, nothing was called and the play remained 5-on-5. I thought it was the right call. You could have argued that it was a charging minor, from the very grainy replay I was able to see, but if there is no call on the ice, I believe the officials can only rule the play a major penalty or nothing — you can’t call a minor out of a review. Given those two choices, the officials made the right call.

That allowed the play to remain 5-on-5 and the Warriors took advantage about three minutes later on Tyler Irvine’s game-tying goal, winning a puck battle in front. The play was really made by Logan Coomes and Alfred Larsson, though. This was a good example of a goal resulting from the play of all three forwards. Coomes made a really nice read to get the puck to Larsson, and then Larsson did what he’s supposed to do, get the puck on net, and Irvine jammed it in.

Merrimack has outshot BC 68-33 in the series to this point. Somehow though, the Warriors have not had a lead in the series.

Overtime

Sami Tavernier had a breakway in the opening minutes of the overtime that Woll stopped, but Casey Fitzgerald was whistled for holding and it put the Warriors on the power play. Honestly, if it weren’t overtime, that might have been a penalty shot.

From there, Grando scored shorthanded.

Final Thoughts

— Logan Coomes had a really nice playoff run for the Warriors. I thought he took his game to a new level against Lowell last week and that continued this weekend against Boston College. Coomes finished the year with 11 points, and he could be an early candidate for a breakout player next season. There will be more open spots in the top-six, and he could easily lock down one of those spots if he continued to play the way he played the past two weekends.

— Another Warrior who had a really good playoff run was defenseman Ryan Cook. Like with Coomes and the forward positions, there are going to be a lot of open minutes on the blue line next season with Jared Kolquist, Marc Biega and Aaron Titcomb all graduating. The way Cook has played not only in the playoffs, but down the stretch, has to make him one of the leading contenders for a more expanded role next season.

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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