Coming into Saturday night, the Terriers hadn't scored an even-strength goal in three-and-a-half games. That changed just 44 seconds in when Kevin Shattenkirk took a pass from Chris Connolly and beat Andrew Braithwaite with a low wrister from the right faceoff circle. BU would go on to add to three more even-strength goals in the first period to take a commanding 4-0 lead. One of the biggest keys to BU's 5-on-5 turnaround was its ability to get more traffic in front of the net. Ross Gaudet and Max Nicastro each netted their first collegiate goals in large part because of screens at the top of the crease. Also contributing to the improvement was the return of Nick Bonino and the emergence of a true top line. Bonino, Connolly and right wing Joe Pereira were on the ice for four of BU's six goals and sustained pressure in the offensive zone all game. Jack Parker singled out Pereira as the best player on the ice.
The defense, like everything else relating to BU, started out great, allowing just six shots and two grade-A chances in the first period. The second period was OK –– nine shots and four grade-A chances. The third period, however, was awful –– 14 shots and eight grade-A chances. Clearing out the front of the net was a problem the Terriers appeared to solve last weekend, but it re-emerged this weekend, especially in Saturday night's final 20 minutes. The BU blue-liners are also developing a bad habit of taking penalties, lots of them. Eight of the team's 10 infractions tonight were committed by defensemen, including four by senior Eric Gryba. At one point in the third period, three Terrier defenders were in the box at the same time, one night after four were partying in the box at once on Friday.
In his first start since last season's regular-season finale (a 3-0 shutout of Providence), Grant Rollheiser showed no signs of any lingering effects from the high ankle sprain that had sidelined him for the first month of this season. He showed good lateral movement, serviceable rebound control and the ability to stay square on most of Merrimack's second-chance opportunities. More importantly, Rollie made big saves when they counted most. He saved six shots from the slot or closer in the third period, including a diving robbery on a rebound chance by Jesse Todd that would've tied the game. Of the four goals he gave up, none of them were really soft. Two were snipes, one was essentially a 2-on-0 and one was tipped in, albeit rather slowly.
Special teams: B-
The raw numbers aren't very impressive (1-for-6 on the power play, 3-for-8 on the penalty kill), but those are somewhat misleading. The PP recorded an impressive 14 shots on its six chances, while the PK held the Warriors to one shot per PP. After struggling mightily early in the season, the PP continued its recent trend of good possession and good movement. Bonino's return certainly helped matters. It was his pass that set up Colby Cohen's laser-guided missile into the top corner with 2:08 left in the second. As for the PK, Parker mentioned that he was happy with it despite the fact that it gave up three goals. Not that Luke Popko needs to be singled out when talking about the PK, but Parker did it anyway, saying that "there's not many guys that can do it as well as he does".
X-Factor: Fast start
If there was ever a game when BU needed to get out to a fast start, it was Saturday night. The Terriers had lost four games in a row, had already matched both their season total and conference total in losses from last season, and were sitting dead last in the conference standings. One win doesn't turn the season around, but it certainly helps team morale heading into next weekend's series against New Hampshire. BU was so desperate to find anything positive that, as Connolly mentioned in his postgame comments on GoTerriers.com, someone had done the research to discover that when the Denver Pioneers repeated as national champions in 2004-05, they started that season 3-6. BU is now 3-6.