BOSTON — Cam Atkinson took over for Boston College in the third period Saturday night, scoring two late goals to power the Eagles, the defending national champions, to a 5-3 win over Merrimack in the Hockey East championship at TD Garden.
Both BC, shooting for its third national title in the last four years, and Merrimack will be heading to the NCAA tournament, the Eagles as a No. 1 seed. The field for the tournament will be announced Sunday and BC was worried it might have to fly West because of a system that would allow the Eagles to stay at the same location as conference foe New Hampshire, in Manchester, N.H.
Merrimack will make its second trip to the NCAA tournament after appearing in the Hockey East title game for the first time.
“I would not be surprised to see Merrimack at St. Paul (in the Frozen Four),” BC coach Jerry York said.
Said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy: “It would be nice to meet (BC) in the Frozen Four.”
Saturday night, it was too much Atkinson at the wrong time.
“That Atkinson kid’s pretty good,” Dennehy said after the junior scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season to give the Eagles their 30th victory of the year, this one giving BC its second straight and a record-10th Hockey East title.
Atkinson, the tournament MVP, had eight shots on goal through the first two periods but had only an assist to show for his efforts. He made his ninth and 10th shots of the night count, giving the top-seeded Eagles the lead twice in the final 10:19. His second goal put BC ahead to stay with 5:11 left in the game. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin added a power play goal with 1:36 left.
“Cam came up with an outstanding effort there for the winning goal,” York said.
“That’s a tough line to stop,” Dennehy said about Atkinson and linemates Joe Whitney (one assists) and Brian Gibbons (one goal, one assist). “Cam’s the sniper. He’s the guy that if you give him an inch he’s going to put it in the back of the net.”
Fourth-seeded Merrimack fought back from three one-goal deficits, tying the game for the final time on Ryan Flanigan’s second goal of the game on the power play with 6:28 remaining. Atkinson then blasted a pass from Patrick Wey past goalie John Cannatta to break the 3-3 tie.
John Muse, BC’s goalie during this glorious four-year run, made 36 saves to get the win. “He’s the backbone of our team,” Atkinson said.
BC, which has won eight straight games over and eight in a row at TD Garden over the last two years, will get Chris Kreider, a first-round pick of the New York Rangers, back at practice Monday. He has been out since suffering a broken jaw Feb. 25.