Second-ranked Boston College (4-1-0, 2-1-0 HE) claimed the first game of a home-and-home series with Hockey East foe Merrimack (2-3-1, 0-2-0 HE) 4-1 Thursday night.
Freshman Jimmy Hayes jumpstarted the Eagles in the first period with his first two collegiate goals in front of a crowd of 3,908 at Kelley Rink.
“It was unbelievable for my first collegiate goal, it was just a great experience,” said Hayes. “It’s just a great thrill; finally it’s like getting a monkey off your shoulder.”
Merrimack has not won at BC since October 31, 1997, and this game was no different for the Warriors.
“The one word I had written on my scorecard at the end of the night was ‘execution,'” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “It has multiple meanings. Russian roulettes are execution too, it just had a lot to do with it tonight. We didn’t execute and in the end we ended up executing ourselves. I think it had more to do with us tonight. I mean they’re a good team, they’re fast, but I don’t recognize that team that played today because that’s not the team that we practiced with.”
The Warriors started junior Andrew Braithwaite in net, but after allowing three goals in the first period he was replaced with freshman Joe Cannata.
Hayes launched the attack on Braithwaite as he waited in the center just past the blue line for the puck. With a short pass from Carl Sneep, Hayes quickly got rid of the puck, delivering it past the Warrior netminder after a bang off the post at 9:13.
Hayes liked the taste of his first career goal as an Eagle and decided to double it at 12:33 when he carried the puck down the right wing off a pass from Nick Petrecki in the neutral zone. Hayes shot it mid-circle and again the puck hit the post and confused Braithwaite.
“The second one was just a surprise,” said Hayes. “I think I saw Barry Almeida going to the net hard and I was just trying to fire one on net to have a rebound and it ended up beating the goalie.”
“I thought Jim was sharp right from the first shift of the game,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “He was skating very well; he used his size and his strength well. I think we’re always talking to Jim about being a power forward and he certainly was all of that tonight along the boards and in front of the net. He did a very good job for us. The two goals were both excellent shots.”
Braithwaite saved 12 shots in the first while BC’s John Muse only had five come his way in the entire period, eventually allowing one of them past.
At 18:13 Merrimack struck back with an unassisted goal from junior Pat Kimball. Kimball took the puck down center ice as BC defensemen tried to block him, but he shot on Muse, who stopped it at first and then let it rebound. Kimball stayed in front to dump it in to put the Warriors on the board.
But at 18:50, Merrimack senior Mickey Rego took a five-minute major and a game disqualification for knocking out Barry Almeida, and on the resulting power play, BC’s top line crowded the net, the puck quickly bouncing from Benn Ferriero to Brian Gibbons to captain Brock Bradford. Bradford then chipped in the power-play goal with 30 seconds left on the clock for his fourth goal of the season.
In the second period, it was Cannata’s turn in net for the Warriors. Both teams got seven more shots on net, but no goals.
The Warriors could not capitalize on their only two power-play opportunities in the game when Joe Whitney was put in the box for holding at 3:41, and then Nick Petrecki for boarding at 13:13.
In the third, Cannata returned in net for the Warriors but allowed a power-play goal just two seconds after losing Grant Farrell for hooking at 3:04. At the faceoff, BC’s Ben Smith won the puck, slicing it to Gibbons, who got his third goal of the season to put BC up by three.
“I thought we were sharp both defensively and offensively,” said York. “We only took a few penalties, which I like, so it was a lot of good discipline. It’s a good two points for us. Merrimack is 100 percent improvement over where they were last year. And of course the tables get turned when we have to go up there to play [tomorrow]. It’s a smaller rink, and they’ll probably pull in a pretty good crowd on a Friday night.”