BOSTON -- The pure skill that Boston University possesses is obvious.
In two games against Merrimack this week though, head coach David Quinn’s team’s will was lacking. A college hockey team unwilling to work hard usually suffers ― and the Warriors sure made BU pay.
Junior Brett Seney and sophomore Michael Babcock each scored twice as Merrimack used three unanswered goals in the second and third periods to complete its first Hockey East season series sweep of the Terriers in program history with a 4-1 win Friday night at Agganis Arena.
“The better team won tonight, for sure,” Quinn said. “We got off to a good start and looked like we were going to get back to the way we were playing, but then frustration set in. As the game went on, they worked harder. They were more determined.”
The determined Warriors, who have now taken the season series from BU twice in the last four years, improved to 10-13-3 on the season with the win.
Merrimack won 3-1 when the teams met Tuesday in North Andover. Merrimack has now defeated a team ranked No. 1 in either national poll four times in its program history, and the Terriers have been the victim on all four occasions.
“I’m not going to lie and say we didn’t see (BU’s No. 1 ranking),” Seney said. “But, no matter who you play, you want to prepare the same. We worry about ourselves.”
Seney broke a 1-1 tie 12:51 into the second period, while Babcock scored his third and fourth goals of the season in less than a five-minute span in the third. Babcock scored his first goal in 17 games while shorthanded 5:11 into the final frame before adding another insurance tally at even strength.
“I thought we weathered the storm in the first period. We came out of it even, which was to our benefit because I didn’t think we played great,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “I thought we got better as the game went on and we probably played our best in the third.”
While the Terriers dominated the opening period to the tune of a 16-4 shot advantage, the score did not reflect that through 20 minutes as the teams finished tied at 1-1.
Seney got the scoring going just 6:25 into the game as he took a feed from freshman Johnathan Kovacevic in the right circle before slipping his seventh goal of the season through traffic and over BU goaltender Jake Oettinger’s glove side.
However, BU did not sit in a deficit for very long as freshman Clayton Keller responded with a power-play goal of his own at the 8:06 marker. Classmate Patrick Harper picked up the puck as it came loose after a blocked shot, and Keller stepped closer to a net that Merrimack’s Collin Delia left open.
“He’s obviously a dynamic player and makes a lot happen every time he’s out there, but we’ve got a lot of other good players who aren’t playing well right now,” Quinn said of Keller, who has scored eight goals and 19 points during a current point streak that he extended to 12 games. “We need everybody to step their game up.”
It was a much more even second period, but it another great shot from Seney tipped the score the Warriors’ way. This time atop the left circle, Seney took a feed from senior Chris LeBlanc and drove a wrister past Oettinger for the tie-breaking goal.
In the third, Merrimack’s hard-working style was most apparent.
“What we do is predicated on separating teams from the puck in the neutral zone,” Dennehy said. “If we do a good enough job, we can break it out cleanly and spend time in the offensive zone. We want to slow down teams in the middle and break out cleanly. Once we started doing that, it helped.”
Junior defenseman Marc Biega earned his first assist of the season on Babcock’s first goal, chipping the puck into the offensive zone. Babcock surged past his defender, down the wing and into the slot, where he lifted the puck over Oettinger from outside the left circle.
It was Merrimack’s third shorthanded goal of the season, coming just 24 seconds into a BU power play. “That summarizes what happened in a nutshell,” Quinn said. “Our best players just got out-worked.”
At 9:31, Babcock scored the game’s final goal on a similar play as he took senior Jonathan Lashyn’s feed down the left wing before beating the Terrier freshman netminder upstairs once again. The effort marked Babcock’s first two-goal game as a collegian.
“We were really just focused on getting traffic and going to the net,” Babcock said. “Coach preaches that all the time. Sometimes you throw it to the net and it gets lucky, and it just happened to go in glove side all the time.”
Only one puck beat Delia on the night as he finished off his fourth win of the season. The sophomore made 37 saves, including 21 over the final two frames.