North Andover, Mass. — If Merrimack was going to pull off the monumental upset over No. 1 Boston University Tuesday night, everything would have to go its way.
Everything did go Merrimack’s way, but it wasn’t a case of luck. The Warriors put forth a solid 60-minute effort to earn the school’s first ever upset of a top-ranked team at home or during the regular season.
Junior defenseman Jared Kolquist assisted on all three goals and junior goaltender Collin Delia made 30 saves to lead the Warriors past the Terriers, 3-1, in front of 2,386 at Lawler Rink.
"That was one of the better games we’ve played this year. It was good for our guys to get rewarded tonight with the win. We beat a very good and very gifted BU team," said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, who earned his first ever victory over a No. 1 team.
Not only did the Warriors win the final tally on the scoreboard, they outshot and out-competed the more skilled Terriers for a majority of the game.
"The hungrier, more determined team won tonight," said a frustrated David Quinn. "They won every puck battle. They were quicker to pucks and more determined."
"We were skating and getting on loose pucks. We earned a couple bounces," Dennehy added.
The game started off somewhat inauspiciously for the Warriors. Clayton Keller sent a nifty backhand pass out to a pinching Chad Krys whose wrist shot cleanly beat Delia at the 3:20 mark of the first period.
However, that was the last puck that would find its way past the junior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Merrimack answered back with 4:14 left in the opening period. Matthieu Tibbet re-directed a centering feed from Ludvig Larsson who was streaking into the zone on the right side. Kolquist started the play with a nice outlet pass.
The Warriors capitalized on a power play chance in each of the final two periods which was the difference in the game. Kolquist's shot on net from the left point was tipped home by Logan Coomes at the 14:00 mark of the second period. In the third period Hampus Gustafsson found a small opening from the side of the net to give Merrimack a two-goal cushion.
"We did a good job on special teams," said Dennehy. "The power play is an interesting thing because it's never how you design it. More often than not it's a deflection off a guy that bounces to a guy wide open. At the end of the day it's about getting pucks to the net."
Kolquist, who had scored two points twice in his college career entering Tuesday, had his first three-point game in a Warrior uniform. The second-year captain blocked three shots and grinded it out in his own zone.
"Jared Kolquist leads by example. He probably should have gotten the game puck. He plays with confidence. I'm not worried about what he's going to give us game in and game out. I know he's going to empty the tank. I know he's not afraid to compete. He wants it. It's nice to have him with a 'C' on his shirt," said Dennehy.
In four games during the Quinn era, the Terriers have yet to leave North Andover with a win. BU is 0-3-1 at Lawler Rink since the start of the 2013-14 season.
"There’s not a lot of room out there. They play to that very well," said Quinn of why his team struggles at Merrimack. "They do a great job clogging the middle. They do a good job on their forecheck. Their [defensemen] are very active. They have great sticks. They’re quick to loose pucks. They’re big and strong."
"When we're at our best, we're making guys earn zone entry," added Dennehy.
Tuesday's game marked just the third time in program history that Merrimack has upset the top ranked team in the country. The two previous occasions came in March of 1998 when the Warriors upset BU at Walter Brown Arena in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
Merrimack's players and coaching staff hope it's a result that can spark the team going forward.
"We've been playing good hockey. There's no quit in that locker room. We're just going to keep pushing along and hopefully string together a few wins," said Kolquist.
"You beat the number one team in the country. If you don't feel a level of confidence from that, there's nothing I can inject into you that's going to do it," Dennehy said.
The two teams finish their regular season series against one another at Agganis Arena on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.