Messner scores in double overtime to send Merrimack back to TD Garden
NORTH ANDOVER — Mick Messner's role was simple when the puck dropped in the first period. Alongside linemates Ryan Leibold and Jordan Seyfert, Messner was tasked with shutting down Boston College's highly-potent top line, anchored in the middle by the No. 5 overall pick in last year's NHL Draft, Cutter Gauthier.
Messner's role at the end of the game was a tad different.
The senior from Wisconsin took a drop pass from Leibold — in double overtime — and snuck a shot between the legs of BC goaltender Mitch Benson to send the Warriors to the Hockey East semifinals next Friday at TD Garden. It's the first time Merrimack has advanced to the Hockey East semifinals since 2011.
Messner scored the game's only goal, and the Warriors won 1-0.
"Ryan made a great play through the middle and dropped it back," Messner said. "He put it on a tee for me, and I ripped it and it went in. I was really trying to make sure I didn't get it blocked, and I was lucky enough that it went in."
His coach, Scott Borek, couldn't have been happier. Borek wasn't just excited to get the Warriors back to the Garden in his fifth season behind the bench, he was delighted that one of his team's unsung heroes had the Lawler Arena faithful singing mighty high.
"That line, they work so hard, and they're such team guys," Borek said. "They do anything for our team. I was really happy to see (Messner) get rewarded with that moment."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the rink, that line held the Gauthier line off the scoresheet.
"It's no secret that they are their top line," said Leibold. "They are super-talented, dynamic players. But we loved taking on the task like that. It started with being in the right mindset, and we were in the right mindset because we watched the film and we were prepared. It paid off for us."
Hugo Ollas made 36 saves for the Warriors and posted his fifth shutout of the season. BC tested Ollas with 16 shots in the two overtime periods. Ollas has not allowed a goal in his last 173:14 of ice time. The last goal Ollas allowed was on Feb. 18 against Boston University.
"I just tried to keep playing and not think about it too much," he said. "You have to respect their top line because they are so good, but the guys did a good job keeping them to the outside. I was really happy. I was not under a lot of pressure all night."
The Warriors will face UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals. The River Hawks defeated Connecticut in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Merrimack swept Lowell in a weekend series at the end of February.
"I told the guys before the game that there was one big reason I wanted to win today, and that's because I didn't want to stop coaching this group," Borek said. "I love this team. I love this group, and they responded and got us a goal that will bring us to the Garden."
Ed. Note — It was a late night! I’ll have much more on Merrimack advancing to the Hockey East semifinals and the Warriors’ Pairwise position on Sunday.
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What a game. One of those neither team deserves to lose. But this is icing on the cake of a great season. Hope they keep going.