By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
Merrimack College picked a good time to win its first game at Agganis Arena.
Boston University was 10-0-0 against the Warriors at The Greek entering Saturday night, but that perfect record was blemished when junior forward Joe Cucci’s shot hit the back of the net 2:16 into overtime to force a decisive Game 3 in the teams’ quarterfinal series.
“My first comment is, what happened to my team from last night? That’s all I can think about,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We played hard, we played smart, we played with a lot of zip, we moved the puck. We didn’t do any of those things tonight. We got outshot in our own building. We had 11 power plays to their five, and we got outshot.”
“We didn’t come focused,” said senior defenseman and assistant captain Eric Gryba. “We were two different teams from last night to tonight. I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easy or that we were just going to roll over them, but we definitely weren’t ready to play.”
Merrimack took a 1-0 lead 11:30 into the first on freshman forward Stephane Da Costa’s 16th goal of the season. Da Costa and junior forward Chris Barton caught BU with four guys up ice and ran a 2-on-1 give-and-go that ended with Da Costa burying the puck into the right side of the cage before sophomore goalie Kieran Millan (32 saves) could get across the crease.
The Terriers tied the game 2:33 into the second when Gryba fired a slap shot from the right point that deflected off Warrior defenseman Adam Ross’ skate and into his own net.
BU couldn’t keep momentum on its side, though, as Merrimack registered the period’s final nine shots and regained the lead. With 1:39 remaining in the period and the Warriors on the power play, junior defenseman Fraser Allan’s shot from the point was blocked, but freshman forward Brandon Brodhag gathered the loose puck in the slot and fired a turnaround shot past a diving Millan.
The second period also featured the most gruesome moment of BU’s season when freshman defenseman Max Nicastro got his wrist sliced open by a skate behind the Merrimack net. Nicastro lost a considerable amount of blood before trainer Larry Venis was able to get his wrist wrapped up and help him off the ice. The game was delayed for several minutes while the ice crew tried to clean up the pool of red.
Nicastro cut an artery and needed 26 stitches, according to Parker. Parker added that he definitely won’t play in Sunday night’s Game 3, but that he could be back for next weekend’s semifinals should BU advance.
The Terriers knotted the game again 5:19 into the third on freshman forward Wade Megan’s fifth goal of the season. On the power play, freshman forward Alex Chiasson threw a shot on net that was tipped by senior forward Zach Cohen and saved. Chiasson collected the rebound and had that shot stopped, too. The rebound sat on the right doorstep, though, and Megan was finally able to jam it home on his third stuff attempt.
That goal was the only positive for the Terriers on what was an otherwise abysmal power play. BU went just 1-for-11 with 13 shots on the power play, including going 0-for-2 on 5-on-3s.
“On the power play, we were brutal I thought,” Parker said. “We were walking.”
The Terrier faithful thought BU took the lead with less than five minutes to go when Megan whacked a rebound out of the air and past Cannata. The goal was immediately waved off due to a high stick, though, and that call stood up after review.
Both Parker and Gryba singled out Millan as the star of the game for the Terriers. He saved 25 of the 26 shots he faced in the second and third periods, including three clean breakaways, to keep his team in the game.
“I thought my goaltender played absolutely fabulous,” Parker said. “He had a hell of a night. That game could’ve easily been theirs earlier than that. He played great.”
“We were fortunate to go into overtime, because of Kieran Millan,” Gryba said. “He was the only reason that game was close.”