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Eichel Carries BU Hockey Past Merrimack

Junior Danny O'Regan scored his first collegiate hat trick and freshman Jack Eichel registered four assists as No. 2/3 Boston University finished off a three-point weekend with a 4-2 win over Merrimack on Saturday at Agganis Arena.

Danny O'Regan
Danny O'Regan
Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- Entering the college hockey season, everyone was talking about Boston University freshman Jack Eichel.

He was held off the scoresheet for the third time in four games in Friday's 1-1 tie at Merrimack's Lawler Arena, but teamed up with junior linemate Danny O'Regan to show what all the hype has been about on Saturday.

The North Chelmsford, Mass. native and top American NHL Draft prospect handed out four assists while O'Regan scored his first collegiate hat trick as the No. 2/3-ranked Terriers finished off a solid weekend with a 4-2 win over the Warriors at Agganis Arena.

"Three points in Hockey East is a successful weekend, especially when you beat a team of that caliber," BU head coach David Quinn said. "I thought it was a completely different game than last night; we wouldn't shoot the puck, we wouldn't pass the puck and we did both of those things really well tonight."

After a good start from Merrimack before BU went on its first power play, the Terriers dominated the remainder of the first period and took a 1-0 lead at the 11:00 mark.

On a rush, Eichel dished the puck into the slot for the Needham, Mass. native and San Jose Sharks prospect to go from his forehand to his backhand and tuck his ninth goal of the season past Merrimack freshman Collin Delia.

BU attempted 40 shots, including 18 in the Grade-A area, in a pretty dominant opening period.

"They knew what was at stake," Quinn said of his team's first-period effort. "They knew we weren't going to play another league game for more than a month, so they were going to have to live with this for a while."

Just 16 seconds into the second, Eichel fed a pass to Tampa Bay prospect and fellow Merrimack Valley native John MacLeod (Dracut) at the top of the right circle and his shot bounced past Delia off O'Regan. MacLeod was originally credited with the goal, but it was found that O'Regan earned the tip-in after further review.

"I thought our puck movement was as good as it's been in a while," Quinn said. "That whole line (junior Ahti Oksanen, Eichel and O'Regan) played well. The last two nights, they haven't been great and one of the things they do so well is move the puck. When they move the puck and skate, they're tough to defend."

Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey's first collegiate goal was also scored on a deflection at the 2:46 mark, giving BU a 3-0 lead. Eichel dished a backhanded pass back to the top of the zone and his shot bounced off a defender's skate in front for his fifth point in six games.

"For sure, it's exhilarating," Hickey, a Calgary Flames prospect, said. "I had a lot of shots (four) today and one of them ended up going in. It was all the work of the forwards up front. Danny made a good play to Jack, then Jack drew the guy to him and popped it to me."

Merrimack got its scoring going at 14:59 as senior Quinn Gould's wraparound attempt bounced off junior Brian Christie's skate and into the back of the net nearly vacated by BU junior Matt O'Connor on a power play.

O'Regan scored his third goal less than a minute later at 15:51 as Eichel fed him another backhand pass out of the corner. His first hat trick came after scoring a pair of goals in a game seven different times in his career, including last in a 4-4 tie with UConn on Nov. 8.

"It was awesome, really exciting," O'Regan said. "I was lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time and benefit on some really good plays by my teammates. Before the game, Coach (Quinn) was telling us to make simple passes. I think we kind of got out of our game, trying to lug the puck too much individually."

BU took four penalties to make things interesting in the third period, including a five-minute major on sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby as he was called for hitting Warrior rookie Brett Seney from behind at 6:34.

Merrimack was unable to capitalize on the extended man advantage, but Christie did so for the second time on the night at 14:45 as he put the puck away after sophomore Hampus Gustafsson was denied twice.

Delia made 30 saves in the first two periods for the Warriors before senior Rasmus Tirronen came in for his first action in more than four full games, going 12-for-12 in the third.

BU plays one final regular-season game before the holiday break next Saturday night at RPI and will not return to league action until Jan. 16, 2015 when it hosts archrival Boston College. "To have played ten league games and only have one loss is a great accomplishment," Quinn said, "but there's a lot of hockey left. This league can change in a hurry."

Merrimack concludes the first half of the season at 10-5-2 after the loss, and it has nearly a month off before facing Minnesota in the first round of the Gophers' annual Mariucci Classic on Jan. 2, 2015.