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When asked after the game about his third forward line, Merrimack College coach Mark Dennehy was unable to differentiate it from his highest-scoring lines. His reasoning: they play like a top line.
Each member of the Jeff Velleca, Stephane Da Costa, and Brandon Brodhag line had a goal and an assist as the Warriors beat the Boston College Eagles 5-3 on Sunday. Merrimack beat BC for the first time since 2002.
The Warriors continued their home winning streak, splitting the weekend series with the Eagles. BC won Friday’s matchup by a score of 4-3. All but the last goal of that game came in the first. At Lawler Arena, the first was the lowest-scoring period.
Eagles’ coach Jerry York was happy with the early energy his team showed, especially on the first power play. After BC’s short-lived lead though, York said his team broke down defensively.
BC started the scoring off with assistant captain Ben Smith finding the net first. After a goaltender interference penalty put J.C. Robitaille in the box, the Eagles capitalized.
Brian Gibbons made a great spin move to weave through a pair of Warriors. When he reached the crease, he dished it to Smith, who beat Braithwaite to the left at 4:39.
Less than a minute later, the Warriors tied it on John Jamieson’s second goal of the season. John Muse smothered Jamieson’s shot with the left pad, but didn’t put it fully on the ground. It cost him a 1-0 lead, and the game stayed tied through the first period.
Dennehy said his team never got stable on Friday night against BC, but played comfortably in this contest.
“We looked nervous out there on Friday,” Dennehy said. “We needed to establish a forecheck, and we never did. Tonight, it was a different story.”
Merrimack scored three goals on six shots in the middle period, thanks to a couple backdoor plays.
Four minutes into the second, Da Costa put Merrimack on top for good. Brodhag set him up with a shot in the slot. The backhander beat Muse and gave the Warriors their first lead of the game.
The top line got in on the scoring shortly thereafter. Chris Barton scored his seventh goal to double the Merrimack lead. Pat Bowen carried the puck behind the BC net, then passed to Robitaille on the other side. Robitaille’s pass from behind the net went to the same spot as BC’s first goal, and Barton made it 3-1.
Merrimack added one more goal in the second, just before the last two minutes. Joe Whitney was ejected after a hitting-from-behind game misconduct. It was his third penalty of the game, and it led to the Warriors only power-play goal.
Brodhag recorded his second goal of the series with the man advantage. He deflected Simon Demers’ slap shot from the blue line to pad the lead.
Brodhag said that the best scorers want the puck on their stick as much as possible, and the unofficial forward line of the game controlled it for the majority of its playing time.
The last goal for the Warriors came in the first minute of the last period. 22 seconds in, Velleca added a fifth goal to the total after a nice pass from Da Costa. Velleca found a hole to Muse’s left and one-timed it in.
Boston College notched a couple goals in the third, with Gibbons and Smith connecting again for a goal to make it 5-2.
After a Warriors’ turnover, Paul Carey laced it to Gibbons, and Gibbons placed it perfectly on Smith’s stick. Smith beat Andrew Braithwaite (29 saves and the games second star) to the left.
BC got its third and final goal on the power play, when Jimmy Hayes got on the board for the first time of the game.
Gibbons quickly wristed the puck to Carl Sneep, who one-time passed it to Hayes. Hayes beat Braithwaite to make it a two-goal game. The Eagles finished the game two-for-eight on the power play, while the Warriors went one-for-four.
The Eagles pulled Muse for the last minute and a half of the game, but the extra skater didn’t pay off in the goals’ department.
Merrimack’s next game is at home against Boston University on Friday, Nov. 13. The [next] Eagles’ game at the University of New Hampshire will be on NESN on Friday, Nov. 6.
The final regular season matchup between the Warriors and Eagles will be Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the Conte Forum.