CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Call ‘em the Boston Stranglers.
Given a weekend road trip that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, New Hampshire pulled off an improbable sweep by following up its 2-1 win at Boston University on Friday with a 4-1 win at Boston College on Saturday.
Goaltender Ty Conklin kept the Wildcats in the game by making 17 first-period saves while BC had one Grade-A chance after another. He finished with 37 stops on 38 shots.
Other than two empty netters, David Busch scored both UNH goals, one in the first period that left the game tied after 20 minutes of BC domination. The other proved to be the game-winner and came on a second-period power play.
Corey-Joe Ficek and Matt Swain added empty-net goals in the game’s final minute.
“Obviously we’re thrilled with tonight’s game, especially after the first period,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We were very fortunate in the first period. We came out and just stood in mud the whole period and they took off on us. Then we battled back in the second and third period.
“It’s a great weekend, obviously, coming down here and beating Boston University and Boston College.”
The win did not come cheaply, however. Jim Abbott suffered what was thought to be a torn ACL in his right knee and is expected to be “out a while.”
As a result of the win, UNH moved to an 8-3-1 record, 4-2-0 in Hockey East. For Boston College, the loss was the first blemish on its Hockey East record, which fell to 4-1-0 (9-3-0 overall).
“We have to cash in on more opportunities,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We had a very good first period and put a lot of shots on Conklin, but still came out of it 1-1. Eighteen shots and only one goal! That’s as many shots on goal as I think we’ve had in any period this year.
“At home with that much territory [to your advantage], you’ve got to score more goals. Conklin played very, very well in the first period and then New Hampshire played much better in the second period. They weathered the storm and stayed alive. That fueled their energy level.”
Boston College dominated the first period territorially, but had nothing to show for it as New Hampshire managed a 1-1 tie. The Eagles outshot UNH, 18-6, with many of those in the Grade-A area. While none of those shots provided Conklin with opportunities to provide flamboyant film footage, the All-American was tested time after time.
The Eagles held an unofficial 5-1 lead in quality chances before Tony Voce put them on the scoreboard. With UNH outnumbered down low, Marty Hughes slid a pass to the Voce and the reigning Hockey East Rookie of the Week backhanded a shot over Conklin.
Soon after, forwards from both teams took turns abusing defensemen one on one in a 40-second stretch. Jeff Giuliano and Krys Kolanos did the trick for BC, sandwiching an unsuccessful UNH breakaway by Ficek. None of the slick moves, however, resulted in a goal.
Boston College resumed the offensive pressure until UNH’s Johnny Rodgers and Busch combined to counterattack their way to a 1-1 tie. Rodgers carried the puck right-to-left behind the BC net and backhanded a shot on Scott Clemmensen. After the puck hit Clemmensen and popped up, Busch swatted it into the net.
A more evenly played second period included several big hits by Jeff Haydar and a clanged post by his brother, Darren. At 15:29, Busch got the game-winner off a scramble in front while on the power play.
Clemmensen then made a nice save on Rogers off a three-on-one. Seconds later, Abbott suffered the knee injury off what some felt was a leg check.
BC’s best chance to tie the game in the third period came off a Mike Lephart shot at 4:30 that clanged the pipe.
The game remained tight down to the final minute as both sides had good chances. With 38 seconds remaining, however, Ficek put the game away with an empty netter after teammates Colin Hemenway hit one post from a distance and Nathan Martz the other from the near faceoff circle.
Matt Swain added a second empty-net goal with one second left on the clock.
In a statistical oddity, the UNH win broke a tie in the all-time series between the two clubs that had stood at 46-46-5.