North Andover, Mass. — Two power play goals in the final period of regulation helped Merrimack erase a 2-0 deficit to force a 2-2 draw with Boston College on Tuesday evening at Lawler Rink.
Nine NHL Draft picks laced up the skates in this one while several undrafted players, free agents as well as second or third year draft eligibles, had good games.
Colin White, Ottawa’s first round pick in 2015, missed Tuesday’s game against Merrimack for precautionary reasons. He’s expected to be dressed Friday when Providence rolls into Conte Forum. The Hanover, Mass. native is off to a slow start with the exception of a three-point effort against Colorado College.
“We knew [that he wouldn’t play] right after the Holy Cross game. He’s fine now and he’ll be back for us Friday. You’re losing a pretty good center when Colin’s out of the game,” said BC associate head coach Greg Brown, who served as interim coach in Jerry York’s absence.
Local product Ryan Fitzgerald likely played his final game at Lawler Rink on Tuesday night. The Boston Bruins prospect grew up in nearby North Reading, Mass., and certainly laced up the skates there many times. His second period goal put the Eagles up, 2-0, a lead they would eventually relinquish in a 2-2 draw.
Fitzgerald was strong on draws and was one of the few Eagles to consistently generate offensive chances on a night where Merrimack’s forecheck pressure and layers through the neutral zone really bottled up BC.
“Ryan Fitzgerald, sometime’s it like Houdini coming through the middle of the rink,” praised Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy.
Second-year draft eligible Luke McInnis had a solid game for the Eagles. A good skater, he did a nice job retrieving pucks and making quick decisions on outlet passes. His confidence with the puck on his stick is notable.
“He did a nice job. He had some real nice passes on the breakout. He made some very nice passes. The one he sent up to [Chris] Brown for the partial breakaway that they took a penalty on was an outstanding pass,” Brown explained.
Speaking of Chris Brown, the sophomore has taken a huge step in his second season at The Heights. His seven points, including an assist Tuesday night, is just four points shy of his freshman year total in 41 games played. His assist came on Scott Savage’s first period power play goal. He found a seam in the defense for a passing lane to give Savage, who was pinching in from the right point, a wrist shot from the top of the circle.
Freshman goaltender Joe Woll, a third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was every bit as good as he needed to be. He probably over-committed a little on Matt Foget’s power play goal, but it was a transitional play where the Warriors had a ton of speed entering the zone. Overall, he made 32 saves on the evening.
“He’s been fantastic all year. He’s an elite goalie. He’s just a young freshman. He’s got all the abilities and mental make up to be outstanding, said Brown.
After recovering from a lingering lower body injury that caused him to miss time a season ago, Chris Calnan was held to zero shots on goal and no points. However, the Chicago Blackhawks prospect did make a terrific pass to hit a streaking Ron Greco in the first period. He chipped it perfectly up the boards to hit the freshman in stride right on the tape.
While Greco, a late add for the Eagles out of Philadelphia in the USPHL, isn’t necessarily a NHL prospect, his play was worthy of recognition. He hustled and played hard in all three zones.
“Ron Greco played very hard. He did a nice job with a lot of ice time and a lot of minutes,” Brown said.
Free agent senior Austin Cangelosi went 21-5 on draws. The small, undersized center has a quick stick. To think if it wasn’t for him, the possession numbers could have been even worse for the Eagles.
Freshman Graham McPhee, a sixth round pick of Edmonton, wasn’t much of a factor offensively, but his skating stood out. He has the ability to get to pucks and be a nuisance for the opposition.
As he usually is, Merrimack junior Brett Seney was his team’s most skilled player. The 2015 New Jersey Devils pick uses his elite speed to make plays. He weaved around a few BC defenders in the first period, almost tucking home a shot from behind the goal line on the right post, but the puck slid through the crease.
On Merrimack’s tying goal, he received a pass with speed at the blue line. He blew in the left side and sent a centering feed out to Matt Foget, who scored on the second chance.
“He’s probably the fastest guy I’ve played with,” said Foget.
Earlier in the game, his speed forced turnovers at his defensive blue line and led to chances for Mathieu Tibbet. Seney was able to poke the puck loose to the point Tibbet could chase them down for breakaway bids. His line had 13 of Merrimack’s 34 shots on goal.
“Brett is playing fast and he’s being much more conscientious without the puck. We need Brett to be good,” said Dennehy.
Freshman Jonathan Kovacevic, a third-year entry into the 2017 NHL Draft as a ‘97, was very good for the Warriors. He’s 6-foot-4, and he can skate. He’s a big body back there and is extremely mobile. Mainly alongside junior captain Marc Biega, the pair did a good job on gaps to prevent BC from gaining speed through the neutral zone.
“His poise with the puck,” Dennehy answered when asked what he liked about Kovacevic’s game Tuesday night. “He doesn’t panic with the puck. He’s so big and strong he can protect it with his body. He made nice plays. He gained zones. He got pucks deep. He found guys in the middle of the ice. He used his partner and he handled the front of the net.”
Kovacevic, who played for Hawkesbury in the CCHL, is a good candidate to continue the trend of second and third year draft eligibles being selected.