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Merrimack Starts Fast, Breaks 30-Game Skid at Boston College

John Corneau/SB Nation

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It had been a long, long time since Merrimack won at Boston College.

The night was Oct. 31, 1997. A span of 30 games. Senior defenseman Jonathan Lashyn, the oldest player on the Warriors’ current roster, was just four years old.

Friday night at Conte Forum, that long streak came finally to an end.

The Warriors left no doubt in this contest, as senior assistant captain Hampus Gustafsson scored two of his three goals and five points in the first period en route to a 6-3 win.

“I tip my cap, they’re a very good team,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, whose Warriors are now 11-13-5 overall and 5-7-5 in Hockey East play. “Obviously, getting out to a three-goal lead was beneficial. … Two very needed points coming down the stretch, and a road win.”

There was scoring aplenty in the first period, but it was the visiting side scoring a commanding lead in the early going. The Warriors established a 3-0 edge before the Eagles brought the score to within a goal at the first intermission.

Gustafsson scored twice in just under a five-minute span to lift Merrimack. At 3:38, he picked up a loose puck that BC goaltender Joseph Woll dropped in the crease after junior defenseman Marc Biega took a wrister from above the left circle.

Gustafsson ran through the slot and took a second primary assist from junior Brett Seney for the Warriors’ second goal at the 8:36 mark.

At 10:06, junior Mathieu Tibbet extended Merrimack’s lead to 3-0 as his fifth goal of the season came at the end of a 2-on-1 rush down ice with sophomore Michael Babcock.

“I thought the first period might have been our best overall,” Dennehy said. “I thought even (BC’s) second goal was a little fortuitous on their behalf, bounced off one of our guys. But, they’re good, they play hard. Our guys stuck with it and made some big plays when they needed to.”

Merrimack’s third goal prompted BC head coach Jerry York to pull Woll in favor of fellow freshman Ryan Edquist. And, the Eagles responded as seniors Matthew Gaudreau and Austin Cangelosi scored consecutive goals to bring BC back within one.

“I thought he came off the bench and did a nice job,” York said of Edquist. “I was looking for a momentum shift because all of a sudden we were down 3-0. That’s two games in a row we started slow. You’ve got to play 60 full minutes and it kind of bit us tonight.”

At 12:42, Cangelosi sent a beautiful pass from the left wing circle right to the top of the crease where Gaudreau easily tapped home his seventh goal of the season.

Cangelosi cracked the goal column for the 13th time this season at 18:20 as he took classmate Ryan Fitzgerald’s pass down the slot, eluded a pair of Merrimack defenders and whipped a hard shot off the crossbar over goaltender Collin Delia’s left shoulder.

The second period was scoreless until Merrimack freshman Sami Tavernier added a key insurance goal at 15:37, finishing his fourth of the season at the doorstep after a pass from Gustafsson.

“I’m happy for Hampus,” Dennehy said. “He’s had a great senior year, and we think that line can score some goals.”

That was all the offense the Warriors would need as they scored the game’s final two goals. BC clawed back as Cangelosi quickly slammed home a loose puck in the crease with 7:49 left in regulation, but the visitors responded quickly with Gustafsson’s hat trick goal on a seeing-eye shot through the slot 70 seconds later.

“(My last hat trick) was a really long time ago,” Gustafsson said. “It must have been when I was really young. I can’t even remember.”

The Warriors officially extended their unbeaten streak to five games as Babcock added an empty-net goal from the right side at 19:32.

Not only did the win break the Warriors’ near 20-year drought in Chestnut Hill, but it ensured their first undefeated regular season against Boston College (1-0-1) and Boston University (2-0-0) since joining Hockey East.

“It’s nice to know you can beat any team at any time, but it’s about us,” Gustafsson said. “We need to prepare and we can’t take any team lightly.”

“I said to one of my assistants, who has won here, if there were any teams in the last 20 years that have won here a lot?” Dennehy said. “Because I’ll watch their tape and could use that recipe, but these were two huge points.”

BC did have opportunities in the third, but Delia stopped 16 of his 29 shots in the frame en route to his fifth win of the season.

“We had good chances to tie it up and just couldn’t capitalize,” York said. “In the third period, we outshot them 17-3, but those first three goals really put us behind the eight ball.”