By: Brady Gardner
Opening their 2018 Hockey East campaign, the BU men’s hockey team were defeated 4-0 in a visit to Merrimack on Saturday, Oct. 20. It was the Terriers’ third loss in three games of competitive play this season, with the previous two coming from a difficult series with Minnesota State a week ago.
It was an impressive performance from the hosts, who finished 10th in the Hockey East standings after the 2017-18 season, compared to BU’s 4th. Early scoring was key in this contest for the Warriors, who immediately put the Terriers under pressure by scoring two goals within the opening ten minutes.
Senior Michael Babcock got Merrimack on the board first, pouncing on a rebound just over three minutes into the game with the Warriors on the power play. The lead was doubled four minutes later, as junior Logan Coomes picked up a pass and powered a shot past BU junior goaltender Jake Oettinger. The standout netminder was later replaced by fellow junior Max Prawdzik.
With a two goal advantage, the hosts changed their focus to protecting their lead against a talented BU attack.
“They did a really good job once they got their lead of executing their game plan,” acknowledged BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “They did a really good job in the last two periods of trying to negate our ability to generate anything.”
Merrimack added a third goal three minutes into the second period, with junior Johnathan Kovacevic converting on another Warriors’ power play. The two goals conceded on the penalty kill for the Terriers was a far cry from their success defending the man advantage against Minnesota State.
“They were stronger than us,” O’Connell remarked. “We didn’t win enough battles, we weren’t willing to get pucks in behind them…and grind it out”.
As BU attempted to climb back into the game with the goalie pulled, sophomore Laine McKay put the nail in the coffin, taking advantage of the empty net to bring Merrimack’s lead to 4 with 2:18 left to play. BU did finish the game with a 34-28 shot advantage, but going 0-7 on the power play compared to Merrimack’s 2-5 made all the difference.
Opening the season with an 0-3 record is somewhat uncharted territory for the Terriers, who’s most similar start came more than ten years ago when BU went 0-4-1 to begin their 2007-08 campaign. However, that winless streak came to an end with a 5-2 win over Providence, and the Terriers will hope for the same fortune as the Friars come to town later this week.
While taking on #5 Providence will not be an easy task for a BU side still trying to hit their stride, O’Connell remains confident that his team will be able to make the necessary adjustments as the season progresses.
“We’re a couple games in. We’ve got a lot of growth as a team, and we’ve got to get better in a lot of areas.”
BU will look to make a step in the right direction against the Friars in their home opener at Agganis Arena at 7:30pm on Friday, Oct. 26.