DURHAM, N.H. — A spectacular goal by Colin Hemingway scored a perfect 10 in the degree-of-difficulty category and was also the game-winner as New Hampshire defeated Providence, 3-1, on Saturday.
The Wildcats had trailed, 1-0, after 20 minutes despite totally outplaying the visiting Friars, but scored three times in the second period to seize control. Josh Prudden’s strike with 4.9 seconds remaining in the period acted as the backbreaker.
Combined with a Friday night win over Northeastern, the victory moves New Hampshire (18-8-6, 9-6-5 Hockey East) into second place in the conference, one point ahead of Providence (16-8-4, 10-6-2 Hockey East).
However, the Friars, who defeated first-place Boston College on Friday and had threatened to solidify their grasp of second place, still hold a two-game-in-hand advantage.
“It was a great weekend,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “It think the team capped it off with one of the best games we’ve played all season against a really good Providence College team.”
Goaltender Ty Conklin went into the Wildcat record books with his 54th career win, passing previous all-time leader Sean Matile.
“To set the record here at UNH says an awful lot,” said Umile. “There have been some great goaltenders here, so for him to set the record is fabulous.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid. It hasn’t happened by accident. He’s worked at it.”
Upstaging Conklin’s record and even the four-point weekend, however, was the sheer brilliance and audacity of Hemingway’s goal. It may well be topped only by Mike Legg’s famed “lacrosse” move in the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Hemingway, a right-handed shot, skated right-to-left across the goal mouth with a backhander the only apparent possibility. Instead, he toe-tucked the puck back between his legs, reached through his legs behind his body and amazingly roofed a forehand over Ballard.
“I’ve watched guys do it in practice, but I don’t really do it that much,” said Hemingway. “It’s just something that came to my mind. I’ve tried it, but it’s never worked before, so that’s why I’ve never done it in a game before.”
Providence came out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, but that was only because of sharp goaltending by Boyd Ballard. In the opening minutes, he made three nice stops. At the six-minute mark, he added an even more impressive stretch during a UNH flurry on the power play.
UNH’s pressure would result in eventual domination of all the important statistics for the period but one, the score. The Wildcats outattempted the Friars, 21-5, and outshot them, 11-3. The shot chart distributed to the media and coaches showed almost all white space in the PC offensive end and an abundance of notations in the other.
Arguably, Devin Rask’s shot at 17:53 was the first significant opportunity for Providence — despite a full two-minute power play — but the high-scoring sophomore made the most of it. Taking a nice pass from Shawn Weiman, Rask moved to within 18 feet and ripped a rocket into the top of the net. The goal was his 16th, tops on the team and tied for third in Hockey East.
New Hampshire finally solved Ballard in the second period. At 2:39, Jeff Haydar broke into the zone with Eric Lind two-on-one. Haydar cut in from the left wing and beat the netminder low to the far side.
Hemingway added his piece de resistance at 14:11 on the power play to make it 2-1.
The biggest blow of all, however, came with five seconds remaining in the period when Prudden added the back-breaker. Ballard made the stop on Prudden’s original shot, but failed to cleanly handle it and the puck popped to the sophomore in front. Smoothly gloving it down as he moved side to side, Prudden swept it into the net.
After being outshot 21-6 through 40 minutes, Providence picked up its play in the third. However, the Friars could not get one past Ty Conklin, who was particularly impressive in the closing minutes.
“[To get scored on with] 4.9 seconds left in the second period is unacceptable,” said PC coach Paul Pooley. “On the road, [if] you’re getting outplayed but you go into the third period down by one goal, it isn’t a big deal. But two goals is a big deal.
“[UNH] came to play in the first two periods and either we didn’t or they just took it to us. It was disappointing. … We got outplayed bad.”
As disappointing as it was for Providence, the win was just as exhilarating for New Hampshire. Not only was it part of a four-point weekend to rebound from an 0-4-1 slump, but it included truly dominating play of a strong opponent.
“They had six shots [in the first two periods],” said Umile. “They just weren’t doing much against us five-on-five. I like the way the team skated and tight-gapped them. We gave them nothing and they’re a tough team. We matched them physically and played good hockey.”
Next weekend, New Hampshire plays Boston College while Providence takes on Boston University, both in home-and-home series.