As for BC, it just didn't seem as if everything was clicking. Miles Wood's return to the lineup certainly helped the cause as he recorded two helpers including one in the first five minutes of the game to Austin Cangelosi, giving BC a 1-0 lead. After that though, Merrimack took over. For whatever reason, BC's usually stout defense was running around the entire night and it didn't help that they could not find a way to block a shot from the point. I look at the first, third, and fifth goals as perfect examples of BC just failing to pick up their assignments in the defensive zone, particularly in front of the net. It is easy to point to Thatcher Demko and say he needed a night off but given the way BC played in their own end, you can't really fault the junior netminder. The first goal, a rebound tally, came off a weak wrist shot from the half-wall and on the replay, it actually looks like BC's forward had a chance to get in front of the shot but it did not happen.
The second period was arguably BC's worst of the year. 5 on 5, they were fine but once again, penalties ruled the day as Merrimack converted on two boneheaded infractions. MC clearly thought they could win the game by getting pucks and bodies to the net and outnumbering BC, which is how they scored over half their goals. I thought their second goal, also a power play tally, was just a nice play that is almost impossible to cover. Seney made an unbelievable behind the back pass from below the goal line and when you're a man down, there isn't much you can do.
The good news is that the best player on the ice last night was wearing a maroon and gold sweater. Ryan Fitzgerald single-handedly saved the day for the Eagles with two goals and an assist, giving him 35 points for the season. If it wasn't for him, we'd be looking at a deflating loss that would have moved BC down a spot or two in the pairwise rankings. I thought his brother Casey was BC's best defenseman, recording two points on the night, and he was also able to use his speed to help BC break the puck out of the zone, which, on that surface, is no easy task. Adam Gilmour made up for his 10 minute misconduct by tying the game early in the third period before Casey Fitzgerald gave the Eagles the lead on a five minute power play. Outside of the tying goal, the five minute major was the turning point in the game. Fitzgerald's goal game just under a minute and a half into the man advantage so BC had a chance to extend the lead to two which would have put the game out of reach with so little time left but Merrimack's penalty kill stood tall and held the Eagles off the board. I thought they got some good shots but you could tell that the limited space had a negative effect on their ability to move the puck around at the pace they normally do.
As was the case in the Harvard game, BC didn't allow Merrimack to get any chances between the ten minute and one minute marks but unfortunatly, the lead did not hold up. MC capitalized on an offensive zone face-off to even things up with 55 seconds to play thanks a wrist shot from defenseman Jonathan Lashyn. If BC wins that draw, they're probably able to bang it up the boards and win a foot race in order to score an empty netter but it didn't happen. I don't think it is fair to blame White, the center, but it was a bit surprising that Cangelosi, the #1 face-off man in the league, was not on the ice. That being said, White is one of the best two way forwards in the country so he should have been out there. Face-off aside, I think one could argue that BC could have done a better job of blocking the shot but Merrimack made the play when needed.
As I said earlier, give Merrimack all the credit in the world for the way they played. I think they will be a tough out for whomever they get in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. Despite the disappointing result, there are a few positives to take out of this game for the Eagles. The performances of the Fitzgerald brothers, Cangelosi, and Miles Wood were encouraging and the fact that they scored 5 goals in that building against that system is a great sign going forward. The power play had another solid night, going 2 for 5 although they probably would like to have that final 3:30 of the major back. No one is ever pleased with a tie but the fact that they did not bring anywhere near their A game and still came out with a point is reassuring. For the majority of the nation, when you don't deliver your very best on the road, it usually means you're going to head home with a disappointing loss but for BC, they salvaged a crucial point that allows them to stay at #4 in the pairwise, just a few percentage points behind North Dakota, who got swept at Denver. After an emotional week of hockey, I would not be surprised if the staff gave the team a couple days off in order to gear up for Vermont because at times last night, a few players looked gassed.
1. Fitzgerald brothers came to play. Great night for both Casey and Ryan, the latter is now a point behind Colin White for the team lead.
2. Power play. BC's man advantage went 2 for 5 on the night.
1. The final goal was a bit of a backbreaker. So many "what ifs" to talk about but in the end, it was nice execution by the home team.
2. Penalties. I don't really believe in the notion that BC "plays down" to their opponents but it does seem that they take more penalties in games against "weaker" opponents which allows those teams to stay in the game.
Notes- Matthew Gaudreau was the victim of a vicious hit that led to a five minute major. Coach York said the team will wait and see how he feels this morning but I think he's going to be okay. Tough ending to what I thought was a great weekend for him.
Player of the game- Ryan Fitzgerald
Next- @ Vermont next week for two. Revenge.