By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
The Boston University men’s hockey team took the first necessary step forward of the postseason on Friday, beating Merrimack College 3-0 at Agganis Arena in the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU in Game 1.
BU hit Merrimack junior goalie Sam Marotta with 45 shots Friday, and attempted a total of 77 compared to the Warriors’ attempted 50. In the second and third periods, they had 20 Grade-A chances to Merrimack’s four.
Although BU coach Jack Parker praised the Warriors’ energy in the first period, BU outshot them 13-7 even in that frame. The Terriers picked up the pressure from there, registering 15 shots in the second and 17 in the third. Marotta had a .933 save percentage on the night, stopping 42 shots, but that wasn’t enough to earn his team the win.
“We looked pretty sharp with the puck, played hard without it, and I liked our grit, and I liked our poise with the puck,” Parker said.
Defense creates “hole in the middle”
For most of the game, BU’s defensemen kept Merrimack to the perimeter in the offensive zone, preventing them from getting quality scoring chances. That was nowhere more apparent than on the shot chart from the second period: Merrimack didn’t take a single shot from below the faceoff dots or anywhere in the slot.
The Terriers didn’t block an outstanding number of shots. In fact, they only blocked seven, a relatively low figure by their standards. But they forced the Warriors to the outside, making it harder for them to challenge freshman goalie Sean Maguire.
“We did a good job of not giving them big jumps, two-on-ones or three-on-ones,” Parker said. “We had a couple of two-on-ones and they didn’t. So we did a good job on that. But we did defend pretty well in Grade-A. I think that was an aberration that that was such a big hole in the middle. I don’t think that happens very often with them. They usually get the puck to the net. So we played pretty well there.”
Santana on the board
Before Friday’s game, senior forward Ryan Santana hadn’t scored since Jan. 4 against Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute. He picked up his second goal of the year to give BU a three-goal cushion just 55 seconds into the third period Friday, a rare payoff on the scoresheet for all the work he’s done on BU’s power play and penalty kill recently.
“He’s a senior. He’s getting a lot of ice time. He was a fourth-liner for us – he’s still a fourth-liner for us, but he now kills every penalty and plays every power play, and nobody deserves it more than he does,” Parker said. “He works so hard, and he’s a great example of, keep working. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Power play underperforms
In eight power-play opportunities, the Terriers had 14 shots, almost a third of their total on the night. However, they scored just one goal, the rebound Santana jammed past Marotta early in the third.
Second- and third-chance goals on the power play are nothing to complain about. Considering the number of shots BU had, though, their production could be disappointing. The Terriers also failed to capitalize on a prolonged 5-on-3 in the third period, although they were already up 3-0 by that point.
Lack of depth on defense exposed, briefly
The scariest moment of the night for BU came not from any Merrimack scoring chance, but when freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk slammed awkwardly into the boards in the second period. Grzelcyk stayed facedown on the ice for a minute or so and skated off favoring his left leg.
He returned for the rest of the game and took his shifts as usual, although he appeared to be skating somewhat stiffly at times. Parker said it was a relief to see him return, although he wasn’t sure whether the ankle might swell up more after Grzelcyk removed his skate.
If Grzelcyk had been unable to play the rest of the game, BU would have had five defensemen dressed, including junior Matt Ronan, who played sparingly.
“As my twin brother Bob always, says, ‘I was a-scared,’” Parker said. “We can’t afford to lose [Grzelcyk] or anybody, so it was nice to see him get up. When he walked off, I thought, he’s going to be okay. We’ll see what happens when he takes his skate off – it might puff up a little. We’re really thin there.”
Not done yet
This isn’t a negative so much as a fact, but BU still has at least 60 more minutes to play against Merrimack, and despite the way they’ve dominated the Warriors this season, they can’t afford to take them for granted in a best-of-three series.
The Terriers’ NCAA tournament hopes rest on making it deep into the Hockey East tournament. That’s especially true because eliminating Merrimack from the conference tournament actually removes Merrimack from being a Team Under Consideration for the NCAA tournament, thereby hurting BU’s standing in the PairWise rankings. So even though they’ve now won three straight games for the first time all year, the Terriers still have plenty of work ahead of them before they can begin to celebrate.