CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – From start to finish, the No. 3 Boston College Eagles were determined to give head coach Jerry York his 900th-career coaching victory and they did just that in a 4-2 defeat of the No. 9 Merrimack Warriors on Friday night at Kelley Rink.
The win was the Eagles’ fifth straight and third in the last five games in the all-time series with the Warriors as York became just the second head coach in NCAA history to reach the illustrious plateau in his career, joining former CCHA bench boss Ron Mason.
“When you sign up for a team sport, it’s never about individual awards or accomplishments,” York said. “It does not really motivate me…Boston College has provided us all with opportunities to really chase some trophies.”
The Eagles came out flying in the first period, scoring two goals and holding a commanding 11-1 shots advantage on the visiting Warriors as well as a 17-5 edge in total chances.
Just under halfway through the opening stanza, BC took a 1-0 lead when junior Patrick Wey took a drop pass from classmate Steven Whitney in the slot at the 10:53 mark. The goal was the Pittsburgh native’s first of the season and just the second of his three-year career in a Maroon and Gold uniform.
“It was great,” Wey said of his inaugural tally of the season. “I don’t get many opportunities to score. It was a great pass and it felt like it was just [the goalie and me]. It was a great feeling. I was overjoyed.”
At 13:53, the Eagles doubled their lead as Johnny Gaudreau scores his rookie class-leading 14th goal of the season, banging in the second or third effort on Merrimack senior Joe Cannata for the score.
The Carney’s Point, N.J. native has been on fire of late as he picked up Most Valuable Player honors in the Beanpot Tournament over the past two weeks. Entering the weekend, he had points in three games in a row, including four goals and three assists in his last three games.
“I am exceptionally proud of the fact I’ve lasted this long in the profession,” York said in closing his thoughts about winning 900 games “It is so hard to do but in tonight’s game, we got off to a great start early and we knew Merrimack was not going to sit back on 4-0. They put a strong effort forward…”
It was more of the same in the second period as the Eagles put chance after chance on Cannata, but he was equal to the task in the opening minutes to keep Merrimack within striking distance.
That theme was short-lived as the Eagles made it 3-0 at 6:46 of the second period. Senior Barry Almeida took a pretty wrist shot through a screen, trickling past the Merrimack defense and Joe Cannata on BC’s first power-play chance of the contest.
Senior Paul Carey became the sixth Eagle to reach ten goals on the season, beating Cannata between the legs from an awkward, lunging angle between the circles at 16:23.
Merrimack finally cracked the scoreboard at 17:53 as senior captain Karl Stollery beat BC junior Parker Milner in front on a review-aided goal – his seventh of the season to cut the Warrior deficit to three goals heading into the second intermission.
BC had a 15-9 shots advantage in the second period and after it took the opening draw of the third, the Warriors proceeded down the ice and cut the deficit to 4-2 as sophomore Jordan Heywood squeaked a soft shot under Milner for his fourth goal of the season and first since Jan. 13.
Merrimack finished the third period with a 9-3 advantage in shots on goal, while the Eagles held the overall game advantage at 29-19.
Milner finished the game with 17 saves as he was rarely tested by the Warriors offense in his 16th win of the season. Cannata fell to 14-7-6 on the season with a 25-save effort.
“If you can limit any team in Hockey East to that, you are playing good defense,” added York. “We love to talk about offense, but defense is going to be the mainstay coming down the stretch.”
For the team, earning the win for their beloved coach was a must.
“It was very important,” said Eagles captain Tommy Cross. “It’s an incredible milestone. That’s a lot of wins. The two points in the standings were very important, but also Coach York’s 900th here at Kelley Rink during an important time in the season was very big and special for us and even more for him.”
The loss (just Merrimack’s eighth on the season) drops the Warriors to a season-low 1-3-1 in the month of February.
“I thought the team that was ready from the get-go won the game,” said Warriors head coach Mark Dennehy. “We kind of eased our way in and you can not do that here. I thought we continued to get better as the game went along. All positives, no moral victories. I thought our special teams needed to be better. They got a power-play goal and we had trouble just setting it up.”
BC leads the season series, 1-0-1, and looks to make it a clean sweep on Saturday night at Lawler Arena.