Sometimes, the game lives up to its advance billing.
Traditional Hockey East power Boston University, coming off its most lopsided loss in more than a dozen years (a 7-1 thrashing by UMass Lowell), had something to prove Friday against the nation's lone remaining undefeated team, the Merrimack Warriors. The result was a pressure-cooker of a hockey game, but the No. 6 Warriors were able to squeak out a 3-2 overtime win on Connor Toomey's midair deflection at BU's Agganis Arena.
"I thought we battled all night long and handled a lot of adversity," said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. "That's something we pride ourselves on.
"Any time you come into BU and get a win, it's a good night."
Both squads overcame a number of dubious calls (a combined 22 penalties for 55 minutes) to finish regulation deadlocked. The last call was an interference penalty on BU's Charlie Coyle at the 17:36 mark. On the ensuing power play, MC's Brendan Brodhag knotted the game, setting the stage for Toomey's overtime heroics.
Jack Parker's No. 16 BU squad (3-4-1; 2-3-1 HE) put the early pressure on MC goalie Joe Cannata, but it was the Warriors (8-0-1; 6-0-1 HE) who got the game's first strike. Merrimack's Jordan Heywood wristed a shot from the right point that BU goalie Kieran Millan blocked, but Justin Mansfield pounced on the rebound and popped it over the Terriers' netminder at 6:22.
BU tied the game during a two-man advantage at 11:40. Alex Chiasson's snap shot in the slot rang off the right post behind Cannata, but the puck ricocheted right to BU defender Garrett Noonan, who buried it for his third of the season.
The Terriers took the lead on Justin Courtnall's first goal of the season. Freshman Cason Hohmann pulled up his rush on the left wall and sent a slick pass to Courtnall on the doorstep. The junior walked around Cannata, slipping the puck into the net for a highlight-reel tally at 17:13.
Merrimack's comeback effort suffered a blow at 13:17 of the second, when bruising defender Kyle Bigos was tossed from the game. However, BU couldn't score on the ensuing five-minute power play. Cannata kept his Warriors close, robbing Chiasson and Wade Megan on point-blank bids. BU's Millan got into the act seconds later, with a larcenous glove save off a tip from MC's Dan Kolomatis.
Cannata's thievery (36 saves) continued in the third, when he got his right toe on a Courtnall redirect. He followed that with lightning stops on Chris Connelly and Chiasson. BU's Ben Rosen nearly got an insurance tally, but his shot clanked off the left post.
"I was very pleased with how my team played, from start to finish," said Parker. "We had more than enough opportunities to make it 3-1, and just couldn't do it.
"I thought Cannata kept them in there most of the game. He was excellent tonight."
Cannata's hard work bore fruit when Merrimack finally got the equalizer with less than two minutes left in regulation on Brodhag's tip of Heywood's one-timer. Just 22 seconds into overtime, Toomey deflected Karl Stollery's drive from the left point and the puck skidded past Millan's right pad for the win. It was BU's first overtime loss in conference play since 2003, but it was Merrimack's second straight overtime win.
"We recruit winners," said Dennehy. "In situations like that, it really shows itself."
Boston College 3, Northeastern 2
BC captain Tommy Cross sent the Conte Forum crowd of 6,688 home happy when he struck for the game-winner with only three seconds left in regulation to vault the Eagles (9-2-0; 7-1-0 HE) past the Huskies (1-6-2; 1-6-2 HE). Northeastern took the lead on Cody Ferriero's first-period strike, but BC tied the game in the second stanza on Kevin Hayes' fourth goal of the season. The Eagles next play Sunday, against archrival BU, while Northeastern travels to Massachusetts on Saturday.
Cornell 4, Harvard 2
In ECAC Hockey action, Cornell came into Harvard's Bright Center and, paced by Nick D'agostino's two power-play goals, knocked off the Crimson (0-2-1), 4-2. Harvard takes on Colgate at home on Saturday.
UMass Lowell 5, Maine 3
Norm Bazin's River Hawks (4-3-0; 2-2-0 HE) jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Maine Black Bears (3-4-1; 3-3-0 HE), and then clamped down for a 5-3 win at Orono. UMass Lowell was paced by two goals from senior forward Matt Ferreira. The two teams meet again on Saturday.
Massachusetts 7, Holy Cross 2
Massachusetts (3-4-2; 1-4-2 HE) took apart Atlantic Hockey foe Holy Cross, ringing up back-to-back 3-1 periods in the first and second to cruise to a 7-2 victory. UMass defender Conor Allen led the way with three points (two goals, one assist), while forward Steven Guzzo chipped in two goals. The Minutemen finish their weekend home stand on Saturday when they take on Northeastern.
Providence 3, Alabama-Huntsville 0
The Providence Friars (5-3-1; 4-2-0 HE) took the front end of their two-game set, whitewashing the independent Alabama-Huntsville Chargers at Schneider Arena. The two teams meet again Saturday in Providence.