In its first game in two weeks and its first of the Hockey East Tournament, the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team beat Merrimack College soundly on Friday night, pushing the Warriors aside to the tune of a 6-2 score at Agganis Arena.
With the win, the Terriers put themselves in a position to advance to the conference semifinals if they can grab another victory on Saturday afternoon. And if BU pieces together another performance like the one in the opening game, it’s not unreasonable to think that’s a likely possibility.
Here’s a look into what went right and wrong tonight in this edition of Pluses and Minuses:
Larrys and Joes
When a team has the most prolific top line in the country, you can expect a lot of highlight reel goals. And while that was the case for at least one of BU’s tallies on the evening, three of its markers came off second chances near the netmouth.
About 14 minutes into the second period, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues let a shot fly on goalie Rasmus Tirronen. The netminder made the initial stop, but the puck slid behind him in the crease and sat stationary before freshman center Jack Eichel knocked it in for his first of two goals.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Rodrigues picked up a puck near on the doorstep as well that had come off a rebound and roofed it from in close under the bar. Junior forward Matt Lane gave the Terriers even more insurance as he batted in a second-chance shot as well to extend the lead to 5-1.
“For the most part, it was just roll your sleeves up and win a battle along the wall and stay with rebounds at the net front and don’t be denied,” said BU head coach David Quinn.
Quinn also noted that he felt his team displayed the grit and toughness required to beat a defensively strong Merrimack team.
“At the end of the day, it comes to, when you throw a puck into the corner, who’s willing to win the battle and the grit and determination,” he said. “I know as coaches, we get caught up in the video and the X’s and the O’s, but it’s more about the Larrys and the Joes and not the X’s and the O’s.”
Offense from defense
For much of the year, the Terrier defense’s proclivity for generating shots and making plays has helped power the second-best team offense in the country. Friday night was no different, as four of the five defensemen dressed for BU tallied at least a point. For more on this, read Sarah’s sider.
Offense against good defense
The Terriers looked locked in from the drop of the puck, outshooting Merrimack 18-4 in the first period and out-attempting the Warriors 29-8. By night’s end, BU would post a 46-shot performance and held Merrimack to just 19.
The victory also marked the Terriers’ third straight game with at least five goals and second consecutive with six. The half dozen pucks that BU put past Tirronen is even more impressive when you take his .928 save percentage into account. And when Merrimack was outshot in both games it played against Northeastern University last weekend, Tirronen stopped 99 of 102 shots faced, good for a .971 sv%.
Before Friday’s game, the Warriors allowed 2.28 goals per game on average, a total that placed them at 13th in the nation.
“Six goals is a lot, especially against that team and that goalie,” Quinn said. “They do a great job defending, and you got to have a physical aspect to your game offensively if you’re going to create chances for yourself and I thought we did that.”
Eichel also pointed out that, with a goalie and defense as stalwart as Merrimack’s, every shot is a good one.
Netting six goals isn’t too shabby, either.
The power play (sort of)
Although it’s tough to really harp on this considering the Terriers converted on two of their eight chances with the man advantage, Quinn said there was still room for improvement, despite firing 20 shots on Tirronen on the power play.
“I didn’t love our power play tonight,” he said. “I know I sound like the grumpy coach, but I thought we kind of slowed it up a little bit. I thought we allowed them to get in shooting lanes, and I was surprised we had 20 shots on the power play, but I think we need to be better. I thought we got a little bit away from doing the things we’ve been doing for the most part all year, thought our pace kind of slowed down a little bit.
“But I’ll take 2-for-8 all day long.”