Atkinson had a blast
Laser from circle did the damage
Just when it seemed as if Merrimack might be the team to finally figure out how to scratch out a victory over Boston College on TD Garden ice, Cam Atkinson got the puck in his wheelhouse.
Talk about a baby-faced assassin: The Boston College junior has the look of a choirboy, and the shot of a cannon.
With more than half of the third period spent and the top-seeded Eagles and fourth-seeded Warriors locked in a 3-3 duel in the Hockey East tournament final, Atkinson took a feed from Patrick Wey at the top of the left circle and uncorked a firecracker of a shot that tore into the top right corner of the Merrimack net at 14:49 to give BC its fourth one-goal lead of the game. Brian Dumoulin added a goal on the power play at 18:24 and BC, the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, beat No. 7 Merrimack, 5-3, to win the title before 14,571 last night.
“Cam’s a goal scorer,’’ said linemate Joe Whitney. “That’s what he does.’’
BC (30-7-1) has won eight consecutive games at the Garden, four in the Beanpot and four in the Hockey East tournament. Maybe it was that intimidating record that Merrimack (25-9-4) ultimately ran up against, and maybe it was just that wicked shot from Atkinson.
It was the second goal of the game for Atkinson, and the 30th of the season for BC’s leading scorer (30 goals, 29 assists in 38 games), quelling a five-minute pinball adventure as the teams frantically exchanged goals, ringing up three in 5 minutes 8 seconds.
Whitney opened the quickfire sequence, stickhandling around Warriors defenseman Karl Stollery and firing a wrist shot at Joe Cannata. Atkinson knocked home the rebound with a backhander at 9:41, giving BC a 3-2 lead.
The resilient Warriors answered less than four minutes later when Ryan Flanigan backhanded his own rebound past BC’s John Muse for a power-play score.
The tie didn’t last long. Wey knocked down a puck just inside the Merrimack blue line and fed it to Atkinson, who was poised — primed, really — at the top of the left circle.
With one crack of his stick, he split the game open.
“Weysie just made a great play,’’ said Atkinson. “It wouldn’t have been a goal if he didn’t put it in my wheelhouse. But he did and I just fired it and it went into the back of the net.’’
In a matchup that BC coach Jerry York described as “a well-structured game,’’ and a fitting game for the last two teams standing in the conference, Merrimack was, perhaps, one sharpshooter short of the win. Or perhaps BC had one too many.
“They have some pretty good players,’’ said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “That Atkinson kid is pretty good. He made some really good plays. It’s a tough line to stop.’’
Atkinson (two goals, one assist) mans one wing, Whitney (one assist) the other, with Brian Gibbons (one goal, one assist) at center. All three have offensive powers, not the least of which is respecting the strength of their opponent.
“Merrimack has four lines that can go,’’ said Atkinson, who is one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists. “The first line is as good as any in the league. [Stephane] Da Costa’s a great player, so we knew we had to come out hard and play our game. That’s what we did, we pressured and played our game.’’
Even after Dumoulin gave BC a 5-3 lead, the Eagles had to keep up the pressure.
“We kept saying on the bench, ‘We need the next shift, let’s try and get the next goal,’ ’’ said Whitney, “and we did that and then shut them down and didn’t give them the chance to get back in.’’