BOSTON, MA – Playing in its first-ever Hockey East Championship, #7 Merrimack erased three Boston College leads but ultimately fell to the Eagles 5-3 Saturday night in front of 14,571 fans at the TD Garden.
Merrimack (25-9-4) will learn its seeding in its first NCAA Tournament since 1988 in Sunday's NCAA Selection Show at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2. The Warriors will likely be a #2 seed and will open tournament action on Friday or Saturday in either Manchester, Bridgeport, St. Louis or Green Bay. Ticket information for fans will be released late Sunday or Monday with complete information available at merrimackathletics.com.
Ryan Flanigan (Rochester, NY) picked up two more goals in the loss, earning Hockey East All-Tournament team honors, along with defenseman Karl Stollery (Camrose, AB), who led all players in ice time with 28:05.
Cam Atkinson, who was the tournament's MVP, netted what proved to be the game-winner with 5:11 to play in regulation. For Atkinson, it was his second of the game and 30th of the season.
After Pat Mullane gave the Eagles the lead with an unassisted tally at 9:15, Flanigan answered right back 26 seconds later with his sixth goal and 11th point in the last seven games beating John Muse glove side. The Warriors forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and Carter Madsen (Calgary, AB) fed Flanigan who broke down the right side. Flanigan looked off Elliott Sheen (Lethbridge, AB) and evened the score at one.
Brian Gibbons put home a rebound from an Atkinson shot at 11:03, but the Warriors responded again as Mike Collins (Boston, MA) notched a power-play tally, his 14th of the year at 19:36, sending the teams to the locker room tied at two. Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) worked the puck to Joe Cucci (Melrose Park, IL), who threw it to the net, where Collins redirected it past Muse for his eighth power-play tally of the year.
Following a scoreless second in which Joe Cannata (Wakefield, MA) made 15 saves, including four with the Eagles on a 40-second two-man advantage, Muse kept the game deadlocked to open the third, making power-play stops on Cucci and Kyle Bigos (Upland, CA). Moments after Merrimack's power play expired, Cannata made a huge pad stop on Joe Whitney.
The Eagles finally solved Cannata as Atkinson gave BC the 3-2 lead at 9:41, putting home a rebound off a Joe Whitney shot for his 29th of the year. Cannata made the original save, a pad stop on Whitney, but Atkinson beat everyone to the rebound and buried it.
But once again, Merrimack answered, as Flanigan potted his second of the game, as he beat Muse from along the goal line on the power play at 13:32, taking feeds from Collins and Da Costa.
Atkinson was there to respond with the game-winner on a one-time blast just 77 seconds after Flanigan tied it.
Merrimack went back on the power play with 4:43 to play but could not convert. Eight seconds after the Warriors' penalty expired, BC went on the power play, and Brian Dumoulin sealed it with a man-advantage tally with 1:36 to play.
The Warriors outshot BC 39-35 in the game, including 13-9 in the third, but Muse made 36 saves, compared to 30 for Cannata.
Merrimack's power play was 2-for-6 with 11 shots, while the Eagles were 1-for-4 with seven shots.
Flanigan, who notched a goal in each of Merrimack's four Hockey East playoff games, finished with a game-high 11 shots. Da Costa and Collins also finished with multi-point efforts.