By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
The No. 10/11 Boston University men’s hockey team started the new year off on a good note, as they rode a strong, 60-minute effort to top No. 6/7 Merrimack College, 4-2, on Friday night at Agganis Arena.
BU senior goaltender Kieran Millan made 42 saves in the winning effort and ten different Terriers found their way onto the scoresheet. By virtue of the win and Boston College’s inactivity Friday night, the Terriers (11-6-1, 9-4-1 Hockey East) moved into first place in Hockey East, leading the Eagles by one point.
“First of all, I was really pleased that we had a really solid effort,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I think when you can beat Merrimack (11-4-3, 7-3-1 Hockey East), get four goals against them and get three in the first against them, you are telling yourself ‘we can be a pretty good hockey club.’”
The Terriers strong effort, especially in the offensive zone, helped them take control of the game early. BU owned the slot in the first period, but Merrimack scored the first goal of the period, a backhander off the stick of Josh Myers 4:31 into the period.
The Terriers answered Myers’ score quickly, as junior assistant captain Justin Courtnall tied the game just 14 seconds later when he collected his own rebound and slipped it under Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata’s skate.
“I thought the biggest goal of the game was Justin Courtnall’s,” Parker said. “I thought answering  seconds after they scored, we’re wondering who we are and all the sudden they get one and we come right back and get one, that was huge.”
But BU was not satisfied with a one-goal answer. Soon after Courtnall’s tally, the Terriers went on a power play when Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery tripped up red-shirt freshman forward Yasin Cisse 5:05 into the period. Junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson converted 25 seconds into the man-advantage and just 45 seconds after Courtnall’s goal. The goal came off a pass from senior captain Chris Connolly, who found Chiasson waiting unimpeded in the slot. Chiasson promptly beat Cannata stick-side to give BU the 2-1 lead.
Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera continued to prove what getting to the net can do for a team when, on BU’s second power play of the night. Sophomore Matt Nieto sent a cross-crease pass from behind the red line to Privitera, who was waiting at the post and banged it home. The goal was BU’s second power-play goal of the night and gave the Terriers a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period.
The second period was a tale of two halves, as Merrimack dominated BU for the majority of the first ten minutes while BU regained control in the second half. The Warriors led the Terriers 11-2 in shots through the first half of the period while the Terriers helped by taking two dumb penalties. Merrimack finally found the back of the net 9:45 into the period, when, while on the power play, junior Kyle Bigos sent a slapper through traffic past Millan to cut the Merrimack deficit to 3-2.
It seemed as if the Terriers’ long-standing habit of sitting back on leads would come back to haunt BU yet again. Instead, Merrimack’s goal seemed to re-energize the Terriers, who stopped marching to penalty box and took over the shot battle. They out-shot Merrimack 8-3 for the remainder of the period.
Then, with 2:37 remaining in the period, BU extended its lead to 4-2 on the heels of a nice play from junior defenseman Max Nicastro. The California native played aggressively on a pinch and intercepted the puck, then centered it to Sahir Gill, who blasted a shot from the top of the slot past Cannata.
Despite a flurry of Merrimack activity toward the end of the third period, the Terriers continued to thwart the Warrior attack and rode their quick start to a 4-2 win. The victory was not just the first of the new year; it was the first win since the team lost its top two centers in sophomore Charlie Coyle and senior Corey Trivino. For BU, the win over a strong Merrimack team allows them to close the chapter on their losses and move forward into a new identity.
“You can see right after the game, everyone had a smile on their face,” Chiasson said. “Definitely it was a tough time for myself and for my teammates. It’s great that we’re getting together and we’re realizing that we’re good enough to be successful this year.
“It was a tough loss, losing Corey and Charlie, but we have other guys. We need guys to step up, and that’s what we did tonight.”