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Hockey East Tournament 2011: Boston College Defends Title, Wins 5-3 Over Merrimack

Boston College earned their tenth Hockey East Championship Saturday night with a 5-3 win over upstart Merrimack College. Junior right winger Cam Atkinson had two goals in the third period to take the game for the Eagles.

Merrimack matched Boston College goal for goal for most of the game. Boston College scored the game's first goal, thanks to a shot by sophomore forward Pat Mullane. Merrimack's Ryan Flanigan answered just a few seconds later, shooting one past BC goalie John Muse to tie the game 1-1. 

A minute and a half later, BC senior Brian Gibbons put the Eagles up 2-1 after a nice cycle around the net by his line. The Eagles held the lead until the waning seconds of the first period, when a holding call on Mullane allowed Merrimack freshman Mike Collins to score his 14th goal of the season, tying the game 2-2.

Both teams were scoreless in the second period. Both Muse and Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata survived a lot of traffic in front of their nets to stop several good scoring opportunities. Merrimack's team defense was able to break up many BC offensive plays, intercepting passes and not allowing BC to get into their usual scoring rhythm.

Cannata made several big time saves as the third period began, including a flashy save on BC starting left winger Joe Whitney. Eagles right winger Jimmy Hayes rang a shot off the post, but the attempts allowed BC to regain an offensive goal they had been struggling with all game. At the 9:41 mark of the third, Atkinson jumped in on the rebound from a Whitney shot and scooped it through Cannata, allowing the Eagles to go up 3-2.

Merrimack's Flanigan answered the third BC goal just like he had the first. Taking advantage of a elbowing call on Whitney after some physical play on both teams' part in the Merrimack end, Flanigan swiped the puck past Muse to tie the game 3-3.

Their lead negated for the third time on the evening, BC called upon their big-game experience to rush through Merrimack and score the game-winning goal a minute and ten seconds later. After putting a lot of pressure on Cannata, Atkinson deftly scooped the puck over the goalie to score his second goal of the night and break the game open for BC. The Eagles put the game away with two minutes remaining on a Brian Dumoulin power play goal to make the final 5-3.

Muse, who ends his Hockey East career with a remarkable 13-1 record in conference playoff games, had 36 saves on the evening for BC. Cannata stopped 30 shots for Merrimack. Atkinson, with his two goals and an assist tonight, was named the Tournament MVP.

Both BC and Merrimack will make the NCAA Tournament, which begins on Friday. Their seeds and regional assignments will be announced on ESPN2 at 11:30am Sunday morning.