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Analysis: BC 2, Merrimack 1

Noah Hanifin
Noah Hanifin
Matt Dewkett

CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. -- A dominant second period propelled Boston College to a 2-1 victory over Merrimack College on Wednesday night at Conte Forum in the first ever matchup between the two schools in which the Warriors were the higher ranked team.

After a first period that saw BC control play for the most part, the middle frame was even more tilted in favor of the home team. Jerry York's team scored twice on 11 shots and held down Merrimack for just five shots, most of which were from the perimeter.

Adam Gilmour scored off a Noah Hanifin rebound just 1:15 into the second period to put the Eagles up 1-0. After a failed penalty shot by Merrimack senior Kyle Singleton, BC's Chris Calnan scored what wound up being the game-winner. He capitalized on a poor Merrimack turnover in transition.

The Warriors took over in the third period and freshman Jace Hennig drew the visitors to within one just 2:05 into the final stanza. He buried a nice feed from Hampus Gustafsson, but that was all Merrimack could muster, despite holding the territorial edge for most of the final 20 minutes.

Hanifin is that good

There is a reason BC's freshman defenseman was ranked No. 3 among North American skaters for the 2015 NHL Draft when Central Scouting released its midterm rankings earlier this week. It's nothing new. Hanifin has been drawing attention from scouts for years, but the progression in his game is astonishing.

Hanifin was very, very good in October, but nothing like he is now. He logged about 25 minutes of ice time on Wednesday night and had stretches where his play helped BC's possession game enormously. On BC's first goal, he stepped around a Merrimack forward before firing a low wrist shot on net that squirted right to Gilmour for the tap-in.

He skates well, he is good with the puck and has really good vision on the ice. There are still a few shifts where he plays like a freshman in his own zone, but that's only to be expected of a kid who doesn't turn 18 until Sunday. He's gotten better in his own zone and his upside is off the charts.

The team that gets stuck with the No. 3 pick will miss out on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, but might just get lucky enough to have an elite, franchise-changing defenseman fall into its lap.

Conte House of Horrors

Merrimack hasn't won at Conte Forum since Halloween night in 1997. In other words, Ron Anderson is the last Warrior coach to beat the Eagles in Chestnut Hill. It's surely frustrating for Mark Dennehy, a former standout defenseman at BC, but he rightfully points out there is a reason to the unhappy trips.

"In terms of the 17 years, they're a good team. They've been really good over the last 17 years and they've been really good at home," said Dennehy, who rattled off the names of Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan Gerbe and Marty Reasoner as just some of the characters that have had a hand in dealing the Warriors misery.

Despite the loss, Merrimack can take some positives out of the game. The Warriors played quite well in the third period and has an opportunity to feast on a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, outside of a home-and-home with Lowell. Two with UNH, two with UMass, two with Maine and two with Vermont remain in addition to the games against the River Hawks.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.