The Merrimack Warriors are turning into quite the spoilers in this young Hockey East season.
Just two weeks after beating then No. 2 Boston College, Merrimack gave the Boston University Terriers just about all they could handle Friday night at Commonwealth Ave’s Aggainis Arena tying top ranked BU 1-1.
BU’s Ross Gaudet and Merrimack’s Mike Collins scored about a minute apart of each other midway through the second period in a game played with at least one man in the box for more than half of the 65 minutes. It was sloppy to say the least.
“We don’t gameplan for causing their team to take penalties,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “I think you do a good job on the forecheck, and your able to keep teams in their end, you end up with tired bodies and you’ll end up with penalties because of that but its apart of the game.”
“It disjointed us for sure, no question it does that to you.You wear out your guys that kill penalties and run the power play,” added BU coach Jack Parker.
A bright spot to emerge out of the swamp of penalties was BU’s continued streak of killing them off, now running at 32 straight penalties without being scored on.
“They pressure quite a bit,” said Dennehy reflecting on his team’s power play chances. “You have to have a lot of poise because you know somebody is coming.”
“I think we’re blocking a lot of shots, we’re willing to get in shooting lanes, doing a good job of getting down low,” said Parker “They still got 13 shots, we denied a lot, but when they get 13 shots your goalie is going to have to make some big saves and ours did.”
With the mass of penalties opening the ice up both Merrimack’s Joe Cannata (32 saves) and BU’s Kieran Millan (35 saves) had their fair share of big point blank stops showing why both goalies have been picked up in the NHL entry draft.
“They seemed to be shooting a lot, to the outside driving trying to get rebounds,” explained Millan. “For the most part our defense did a good job of tying up sticks and keeping traffic to a minimum.”
Cannata moved effortlessly throughout the crease the entire night silencing many feeds within a few feet of his crease, while Millan’s best s came on a Merrimack 2-0, being poised enough to wait the shooter out and follow the pass to what looked to the untrained eye as an easy save.
Opening the scoring midway through the second period, Gaudet collected a dish from behind the net and after a couple of bounces he so lovingly referred to as “puck luck” the rubber ended up rolling off his shoulder and behind Cannata.
Just over a minute later Collins ripped a shot high offhand over the kneeling Millan.
The closest thing to a winner after that was Merrimack’s Stephane Da Costa ringing a shot off the crossbar over the shoulder of an outstretched Millan about halfway through the third.
Though a tie is normally associated with kissing one’s sister, both Merrimack and BU have good reason to be at least satisfied for the time being.
The Warriors pushed the No. 1 team in the country to the edge and then some, long gone being the days of Merrimack barely hanging in games with the likes of the Terriers and Eagles. The offenses exchanged haymaker chances like two tired boxers nearing the end of 12th round throughout the game. If anyone was pressed against the ropes nearing the end of overtime it was BU, who manage to stay undefeated for another day.
Business will not go unfinished this weekend as the Terriers will travel to Andover tomorrow night for the second game of thier home and home series to face a Merrimack team that is quickly becoming a challenger to the traditional powers of Hockey East.
“They’re one of the most physical teams in our league,” explained Parker looking over his post game notes.
When asked about his gamplan for tomorrow night at home Dennehy smiled “I dont know, I have a long night ahead of me.”