Before the Merrimack faithful were even able to settle into their seats at the start of the game, Boston College had scored.
The nation’s most prolific offense had struck again.
The Eagles, powered by their top line of Kevin Hayes, Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, scored early and often as they dispatched a gritty Merrimack College squad by a score of 4-1. The men’s hockey team has now won three straight games and nine out of the past 10.
Coming into the game, BC (17-4-3, 11-1-1 Hockey East) was rewarded with the No. 2 ranking in the nation for its stellar week consisting of wins against Hockey East opponents Boston University and University of Maine.
Fresh off an upset of Quinnipiac University, however, the Warriors of Merrimack were primed to take down their second top-five team in the past two games.
Freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko received his second straight start from head coach Jerry York after he anchored a 7-2 win against Maine last Saturday.
Just 1:23 into the game, the Eagles received a stroke of luck when Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen made an impressive glove save on a BC shot, but the puck bounced off Merrimack defender Dan Kolomatis and found its way into the net. Forward Kevin Hayes was credited with the goal, his fourth in two games.
Johnny Gaudreau received an assist on the play, extending his point streak to 19 games. He now has 48 points on the season, the most in the country.
One minute later, the Eagles received a prime opportunity to take an early commanding lead after a Merrimack penalty, but failed to convert. Demko needed to make a save and received help from the post to keep the Warriors from converting a shorthanded chance.
Merrimack carried the momentum out of the penalty kill by getting a quick tally off a shot from Mike Collins, assisted by teammates Brian Christie and Jonathan Lashyn. It was Collins’ eighth goal of the season, good for the most on the team.
Despite falling into penalty trouble, Merrimack achieved its goal of stifling BC’s dynamic power play, denying it a goal on each of its first four opportunities. The Warriors heavily protected the blue line and forced the Eagles to dump the puck into the corner, taking the puck out of the hands of their skill players.
The fifth time on the power play would be the charm, however, as defenseman Teddy Doherty put a shot on net that was deflected by Adam Gilmour. The puck found its way past Tirronen and put the Eagles back on top, 2-1. It was a deflating goal for the Warriors, as it occurred with 41.6 seconds remaining in the first.
That score would hold and the Eagles took a one-goal lead into intermission. BC led in the shot count 11-2, thanks to its five opportunities with the man advantage.
The first chance of the second period belonged to Merrimack, but forward Ben Bahe couldn’t find a way to beat Demko on the breakaway. Demko was solid in his ninth appearance of the season, stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced.
The Warriors struggled in the first period to get scoring chances, but they started to open the floodgates early in the second by firing the puck at Demko. They were given a chance to score early in the second after a BC penalty, but were unable to equalize.
After an acrobatic save by defenseman Scott Savage to keep the puck in the offensive zone, captain Patrick Brown unleashed a shot past Tirronen, extending the BC lead to two. Savage and freshman Ryan Fitzgerald got the helpers on the goal.
In the third period, the Eagles settled back and locked down on defense, taking few shots in the period and focusing on preventing a Merrimack chance.
Forward Austin Cangelosi put the nail in the coffin with an empty net goal, capping off a solid effort on each end of the ice for BC. The empty netter was the lone goal of the third period, which largely consisted of back-and-forth action but no results to show for it.
The Eagles, who are averaging more than four goals per game, will continue their road trip in Pennsylvania where they will match up with Penn State for the second time this year. The first meeting took place at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh in December, and ended in an 8-2 win for the Eagles.