Boston University bench boss Jack Parker coached the final home game of his career Saturday night at Agganis Arena, at a rink named for him, and he went out in style.
Senior center Ben Rosen’s goal at 5:11 of the third period gave the Terriers their first lead of the game and BU added a late empty-net goal to win, 5-3, and sweep Merrimack in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals. BU will now take on archrival Boston College, which swept Vermont, in the semifinals on Friday night at TD Garden.
It was the 896th career victory for Parker, the most of any coach at the same school. He leaves Agganis with a record of 95-50-18 there. After the game, his team remained on the ice as the crowd gave Parker a standing ovation during a video tribute. He said a few words, thanking everyone for their support before heading for the runway.
Afterward, Parker said it didn’t even dawn on him until he was asked if he wanted to say something to the fans.
“It kind of felt weird tonight that this is my last game in a BU rink,’’ said Parker. “It was weird but it was nice to win. I think all good things must come to an end. Oscar Wilde once said that ‘Some people cause joy wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.’ So, some of my guys might be cheering when I finish up here. You never know.’’
But Parker isn’t going anywhere yet.
There is also a strong chance that injured defenseman Garrett Noonan could be back next weekend.
“We now go see if we can continue our season,’’ Parker said.
The first two periods were a wild, seesaw affair. Merrimack had leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 but the Terriers (20-15-2) answered each time.
The Warriors (15-17-6) took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on a goal by junior center Shawn Bates at the 19-minute mark. Bates took a pass from junior defenseman Jordan Heywood, raced in from the offensive blue line, and skated down the slot. His first attempt was a backhander that was denied, but he collected the rebound and beat freshman goaltender Sean Maguire (39 saves) during a power play. It was the first goal for Merrimack in 139 minutes.
It also ended Maguire’s shutout streak at 151 minutes, 22 seconds and was the first time BU had allowed a goal on the man advantage in 22 tries.
BU tied it early in the second. At 1:31, freshman center Danny O’Regan threw a pass across from the right circle that junior left wing Matt Nieto guided past junior goaltender Sam Marotta (29) for Nieto’s 100th career point.
Just over three minutes later, the Warriors went up, 2-1, on another power-play goal. At 4:32, sophomore right wing Connor Toomey fed junior left wing Mike Collins at the right point. Collins skated in a stride and sailed a shot past Maguire.
There was a flurry of scoring late in the period. Sophomore center Cason Hohmann cashed in on the man advantage at 16:12, when he banged home his own rebound. His first shot from the left circle was blocked by Warriors sophomore defenseman Justin Mansfield but the puck bounced right back to Hohmann, who lifted it past Marotta for his 10th of the season.
Freshman left wing John Gustafsson took advantage of a BU miscue to put his team ahead, 3-2. Junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor turned over the puck and Gustafsson beat Maguire from the right circle for his third of the year.
But the Terriers rallied to tie it in the final seconds of the period. With eight ticks left on the clock, Hohmann threw the puck toward the net from below the right circle.
Senior left wing Wade Megan got a piece of it but freshman right wing Sam Kurker jammed it home and it was deadlocked again.
BU scored what turned out to be the winner with 14:49 remaining in the third. Rosen had two strong bids in front. His second, which was a high backhander, sailed into the net for his fifth of the year and eighth in 111 career games.
The final five minutes were very hairy for the Terriers as Merrimack elevated the desperation factor, possessing the puck in the BU zone. But Maguire and his teammates held off the Warriors, and Sahir Gill added a late empty-netter with five seconds left as BU improved to 5-0-0 against Merrimack this season.
Parker tipped his cap to coach Mark Dennehy and the Warriors.
“It was a heck of a college hockey game to watch,’’ he said. “It was fabulous to watch.’’