Saponari’s winner takes Game One for BU

By Jake Seiner, DFP Staff

Aided by a pair of goals from sophomore Vinny Saponari, the Boston University men’s hockey team knocked off Merrimack College in first-round Hockey East tournament action, 3-2.

The Terriers (17-15-3, 13-12-2 HE) also got a goal and an assist from David Warsofsky, while Merrimack (15-18-2, 12-13-2) got goals from senior Pat Kimball and sophomore Jeff Velleca.

In goal, Merrimack’s Joe Cannata was solid under immense pressure, turning away 38-of-41 shots, while BU netminder Kieran Millan made 26 saves.

Saponari’s goals went down as the equalizer and winner as BU overcame a 2-0 deficit midway through the second.

After Warsfosky put home a breakaway tally 10:10 into the second, Saponari tied the game after a scrum created by a Warsofsky slapper. Saponari gloved the deflected shot and set the puck down at his own feet in front. No. 27 took a few good hacks at the puck before it squirted behind the cage.

Junior Nick Bonino moved the puck to the far post, and despite being tackled from behind by a Merrimack player, managed to slide a pass to Saponari back in front. With MC goalie Joe Cannata stuck on the near post, Saponari had the whole net to look at, and didn’t miss.

Saponari gave the Terriers their first lead in a much more single-handed fashion. Moving on the rush from the right wing, Saponari put a big forehand-to-backhand deke on MC sophomore Karl Stollery and beat him to the left side of the net.

Sophomore Andrew Glass was charging the net from the left wing, and swooped in front of the net as Saponari made his move. Glass was pulled down around the left post and may have screened Cannata in the process, and Saponari managed to backhand the go-ahead tally by the goalie.

Merrimack built its early lead with goals in the first and second stanzas. After the Terriers dominated the game’s opening minutes, Merrimack struck first on a breakaway goal by Kimball.

Junior Matt Moulakelis picked up the assist by flipping the puck out of the MC zone. Kimball and a BU defender where out at center ice, but the Terrier rushed the bouncing puck too quickly and skated by the biscuit, leaving Kimball and BU netminder Kieran Millan all alone.

Kimball moved in and gave Millan a little shimmy at the hashes, then smoked a wrister between Millan’s glove and leg pad to give the senior Framingham native his first goal of the year.

Merrimack stretched the lead to two just over six minutes into the second. Velleca picked up the tally on a wrist shot from beneath the right faceoff dot. Millan got a shoulder on the initial shot, but the puck deflected over his shoulder and knuckled toward the left post and across the goal line. Junior Chris Barton picked up the assist on the goal, which was Velleca’s eighth.

The Terriers held Merrimack, which boasts the third best power play in the nation, to 0-for-6 on the night . . . Friday marked the eighth straight game BU failed to carry a lead into the third period, the longest such streak at BU since the 1998-99 season . . . Bonino and Saponari led all players with plus-3 ratings, followed by their linemate, senior Zach Cohen, who registered a plus-2.

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