Final, Boston College 5-3: Merrimack's run came to an end after surrendering a pair of late goals in the third period, but both teams will advance to the NCAA tournament. For now, Boston College has to be the favorites to repeat as national champions, too.
Third period, 1:36, Boston College 5-3: That should just about do it. Brian Dumoulin sent a shot from the point that ricocheted through traffic and beat Joe Cannata. BC will win its sixth Hockey East championship since 2001, including its fourth in the last five years.
Third period, 2:35, Boston College 4-3: Merrimack couldn't do anything on the power play, and it compounded that issue by surrendering a breakaway to Philip Samuelsson as soon as he got out of the box. Jordan Heywood, whose first-period turnover allowed BC to score its first goal, was called for hooking to really hamper Merrimack's comeback hopes.
Third period, 4:43, Boston College 4-3: Here we go again. Merrimack has another power play after Philip Samuelsson tripped Jeff Velleca as he was dashing toward the net. Good thing John Muse has some ups or he'd be looking for a pair of knees right now.
Third period, 5:11, Boston College 4-3: Cam Atkinson gave BC its fourth lead of the game and the second lead of the third period — both on his doing. Atkinson fired a bomb that beat Joe Cannata high blocker side. Credit Pat Wey with the pass that set up Atkinson's blast.
Third period, 6:28, 3-3: And it only took eight seconds. Ryan Flanigan had the puck below the right circle and banked a couple of shots off John Muse, the second of which took a weird bounce and squeaked past the goal line. It's tied up for the third time in the game.
Third period, 6:36, Boston College 3-2: Joe Whitney has gotten two minutes for elbowing, and Merrimack has gotten a huge break, especially with the way it's moved the puck on the power play in this game.
Third period, 10:19, Boston College 3-2: Cam Atkinson's hustle play put the Eagles ahead midway through the first period. Joe Whitney broke through two Merrimack defenders and tried to backhand the puck through Joe Cannata's legs, but Cannata made the save. However, the puck squirted to Cannata's right as he slid to his left, and Atkinson was able to backhand the puck into the open part of the net as Cannata tried to recover. BC has really tightened up its defense in front of John Muse in the last period and a half, and it's going to take a real good effort for Merrimack to tie this thing.
Third period, 12:09, 2-2: You've got to love how both teams are going right after it with the title up for grabs. I think each team can play a little more loosely because they both know they're going to the NCAA tournament, whereis, in the past few title games, the underdog in this game has needed a win to get into the tournament.
Third period, 17:19, 2-2: Each team has already had a quality chance in the third period. First, Joe Cucci missed the net on an open look from the left circle, and about a minute later, Joe Cannata made a great pad save to deny Joe Whitney's redirection after a crossing pass.
Third period, 19:59, 2-2: Merrimack and Boston College have 20 minutes to sort out the Hockey East championship.
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Second intermission, 2-2: The second period was almost a reverse of what happened in the first period, with a fast start and a sluggish finish. John Muse and Joe Cannata are each playing well in net, but they've been aided by a handful of missed opportunities on the doorstep.
Everything I've seen through 40 minutes leads me to believe Merrimack can do enough to beat Boston College, but I've covered a lot of BC's big games in the last six years. Many, many more times than not, the Eagles win them. Muse's 20-1 playoff record is a strong indication of that.
Second period, 0:28, 2-2: Steven Whitney was whistled for hooking, the second time BC has taken a penalty in the final minute of a period. Whitney rebounded well after a pair of penalties Friday night, so let's see which way he goes after this one in the title game.
Second period, 4:44, 2-2: BC caught a break after Luke Ebler fed Carter Madsen, who was charging to the net through the slot. Madsen might have had John Muse off balance, but he fanned on his shot just outside the crease, and the game has remained tied.
Second period, 7:21, 2-2: Boston College has been just missing on a few chances in the slot, and it couldn't convert on a lengthy power play that included a 40-second five-on-three. The Eagles are skilled enough to create those crossing chances in the low slot, but they've been a tad slow on the receiving end. Credit Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery for a great effort to dive and knock a pass out of the zone to give the Warriors a breath after BC's sustained possession. But after working so hard on that penalty kill, Merrimack still has to make sure it continues to weather this storm that BC has created.
Second period, 10:02, 2-2: Boston College will have a two-man advantage for 40 seconds after Kyle Bigos was called for slashing. With a team as talented as BC, it would be surprising if it didn't score on this power play.
Second period, 11:22, 2-2: Merrimack's third power play was fairly pedestrian, and the Eagles will have an advantage here after Carter Madsen was whistled for hooking. This is a big chance for BC after working to free up more space this period.
Second period, 13:49, 2-2: The teams are playing fast hockey again here in the second, and it's amazing how quickly BC can turn a dead play into a scoring chance. It takes a ton of focus on the defensive end to make sure the Eagles don't find the back of the net at any given moment.
Barry Almeida was whistled for interference, giving Merrimack it's third power play of the game, and it the Warriors move the puck like they did in their first two power plays, they'll have an opportunity to grab a lead.
Second period, 19:59, 2-2: The Eagles and Warriors are back in action after an up-and-down first period.
First intermission, 2-2: Boston College took control of the play for a few stretches in the first period, but Merrimack has hung right with the Eagles. The Warriors have some great skill, and they're getting some really good play out of their top three lines. With that said, though, each team is probably feeling all right after one period. The play opened up in the latter half of the period, and that would figure to favor BC, but Merrimack is proving it can score just as well in an open game.
First period, 0:24, 2-2: Wow, Merrimack can really move the puck on the man advantage, and Mike Collins was the beneficiary with 24.1 seconds remaining in the opening period. Stephane Da Costa sent a crisp pass across the zone from the right boards to the left circle to Joe Cucci, who then sent the puck through the slot to Collins, who banked it home from the post. Great movement all around.
First period, 0:50, Boston College 2-1: Pat Mullane was bagged for holding, and Merrimack will have another power play. Its first attempt looked good, minus the goal, so let's see if the Warriors can make an improvement here.
First period, 1:41, Boston College 2-1: Each team dodged a bullet in the last couple of minutes. First, Joe Cannata was out of position and had to dive across his crease to keep the puck outside the post at the end of BC's power play. Then, Cam Atkinson made a great hustle play to halt Stephane Da Costa's wrap-around bid that nearly set him up with an open net.
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First period, 5:10, Boston College 2-1: Joe Cucci hit the post from just outside the crease early in the power play, and Merrimack's Mike Collins scored after the whistle, which just went under review. It was a premature whistle, obviously, because the puck was still free, but there's no question that Collins scored after the whistle blew.
First period, 6:13, Boston College 2-1: Joe Whitney was called for tripping, and Merrimack has the game's first power play.
First period, 8:57, Boston College 2-1: So much for the game's uneventful start. Brian Gibbons, got got his bell rung by Adam Ross earlier, banged a rebound through Joe Cannata's legs to give BC its second lead in less than two minutes. Cam Atkinson's shot rebounded to the slot, and Gibbons backhanded it through Cannata. So that's three goals through Cannata's five-hole in the last two nights.
First period, 10:19, 1-1: Ryan Flanigan quickly baled out Jordan Heywood and tied the game with a beautiful wrister. Flanigan entered the BC zone on the right side and whipped a hard shot over John Muse's glove to knot the score 26 seconds after BC took the lead. BC gave up a quick answer goal Friday night against Northeastern, too, so that's obviously been a problem for the Eagles.
First period, 10:45, Boston College 1-0: Merrimack defenseman Jordan Heywood had a horrendous giveaway in the Warriors' zone after receiving a pass. Without any pressure at all, he lost the puck, and Pat Mullane stole it away, found himself alone in front of Joe Cannata, made a couple nice moves and shuffled the puck through Cannata's legs. Both of the goals scored on Cannata in the last two nights have been through the five-hole.
First period, 12:35, 0-0: Merrimack has owned the last two shifts, and Shawn Bates had some nice puck work below the goal line to feed Joe Cucci to John Muse's left, but Cucci couldn't connect.
First period, 13:52, 0-0: There's been a whole lot of nothing so far in the first period, and that's a good thing for Merrimack, which hasn't looked nervous at all. That's been the impressive thing about the Warriors this weekend. Plus, once they get into a rhythm, they'll prove that they can skate with BC.
First period, 19:59, 0-0: And they're off at the Garden. The first 10 minutes are going to be huge for Merrimack, which has to prove it's not just happy to be here.
6:52 p.m.: There's about 10 minutes until faceoff, and the starting goaltenders are John Muse for BC and Joe Cannata for Merrimack.
6:29 p.m.: If you need visual evidence that Merrimack is in the building for the Hockey East championship, click here.
6:08 p.m.: I'm at the Garden, and I've officially spotted some of Merrimack's players, confirming everything from the last 24 hours that has said they've advanced to their first Hockey East championship game. Their logo is on the Garden video boards and everything. Surreal stuff.
11 a.m.: Historically, Boston College and Merrimack could not be any more different, and that's why the underdog Warriors have been preaching one thing. The game will take place between the glass, and the record books won't factor into the outcome.
BC and Merrimack will meet for the Hockey East championship Saturday at 7 p.m. at the TD Garden. BC has a league-high nine championships and is trying to win its fourth Hockey East title in the last five years.
Merrimack, on the other hand, is playing in its first Hockey East title game in the history of the program, but the Warriors are no slouches. They've got a tremendous goalie in Joe Cannata, who made 30 saves in Friday's victory against New Hampshire, and six players with at least 10 goals. They play strong defense, and they're really solid up the middle. While it would be an upset, a Merrimack victory is not an unthinkable act.