The Eagles never trailed in the game at the TD Garden in front of 14,571 screaming fans.
Cam Atkinson was named the Bill Flynn MVP scoring two goals within five minutes of each other in the third period.
Eagles goalie John Muse stopped 36 shots. He’s headed to the NCAA tournament with a 21-1 career postseason record. Merrimack’s Joe Cannata stopped 30 shots in the losing effort.
This is BC’s tenth Hockey East title in 15 appearances. It was Merrimack College’s first appearance in the finals.
Boston College started the scoring when Pat Mullane scored in the first period. Merrimack College’s Ryan Flanigan scored 30 seconds later. Brian Gibbons then scored for Boston College and Mike Collins got a power play goal for Merrimack tying things at two going into the first intermission. That tie held for most of the game until BC pulled ahead by two late in the third period.
After the game BC coach Jerry York said he thinks one of the keys to his team’s win was that they’ve been there before. He said the noise can be difficult, and just physically inside the TD Garden during the game, but also the “noise” of stories in the newspaper, talking with roommates and all of the excitement that surrounds Merrimack’s inaugural trip to the finals.
“Merrimack played very, very well,” said York. “This was good for Hockey East. It was good for college hockey.”
Atkinson said Merrimack had four strong lines, but so does BC. “Their first line is as good as any other line in the league. We knew we had to come out hard and play our game. Like I said, they have four lines, but we also had four lines. We played hard and got the job done.”
York said the last few minutes of the game was tough for his squad. At the 9:41 mark of the third period Atkinson scored his first goal of the game. Merrimack’s Flanigan answered just less than four minutes later. A minute and 11 second after that, at the 14:49 mark, Atkinson scored his second of the game. Brian Dumouth sealed the win with another goal at 18:24.
“That exchange of goals was tough,” said York. “I can really see Merrimack-St. Paul,” he said, citing the potential match up in the NCAA tournament. Merrimack is all but assured an at large bid with its record; BC earned an automatic bid by winning the Hockey East tournament. They are also reigning national champions. The selection show is Sunday morning.
“It would be nice to meet them in the Frozen Four,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, a 1991 graduate of Boston College. He says his team did everything it needed to do except win. “I’m very proud of our team. They are very resilient.”
He said Saturday night’s game was a great learning lesson and the good news is he gets to get out and coach them next week.
Adam Ross, a senior defenseman, said they continued to remind each other on the bench that they weren’t going to let one goal get them down.
“We kept going until the end of the game,” he said. “This was big for the team, good for the program and school. We’re happy we got to this point.”
Despite the loss Flanigan, a junior forward who in addition to scoring in the third, also scored Merrimack’s first goal, was still looking ahead saying they need to focus on what they could have done better.
“We need to do whatever it takes to win games,” he said.
BC has won eight games in a row at the TD Garden, but senior forward Joe Whitney said getting there is something they have to earn and they don’t take it for granted. “We work hard when we get here and try to win a trophy,” he said.
Dennehy is in his fifth year at Merrimack. Entering the season he had a 46-108-19 record with the team. Merrimack has won 26 games this season. He said in regards to building his team, “You can change the players; you can change the coaches, but until you change the culture of the program you’re not going to have that type of success.” He went on to say they went after players who have played in big games and have had success in the past.