CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — For 50 minutes on Friday, it really looked like No. 2 Boston College would outshoot No. 8 New Hampshire by a three-to-one margin and go home empty. But that’s why hockey games are 60 minutes.
Fueled by goals from Krys Kolanos, Mike Lephart and Marty Hughes’ game-winner in the final minute, the Eagles rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring three times in the final 10:07 to beat the Wildcats, 3-2.
“We just had to get the first one,” said Hughes, whose tally was his fourth of the year, but his third in seven games. “We knew once we got the first we could swarm them because they were hanging on by a thread.”
Trailing 2-0, it was Kolanos who started the scoring for BC, taking a pass from Jeff Giuliano in front of UNH goalie Ty Conklin (45 saves), holding for Conklin to go down, and firing a shot into the open net.
That ignited the sellout crowd of 7,770 at the Conte Forum for the first time on the night, and gave BC the momentum it needed. But as the clock ticked away, the BC faithful were still worried.
UNH’s Jim Abbott had a golden chance to put the game away with 3:20 remaining, but his shot hit the right post, allowing BC to take advantage.
Forty-two seconds later, Lephart finished off a pass from Ales Dolinar, firing a one-timer from the slot high over Conklin’s left shoulder to give everyone in the building the thoughts of overtime.
But with just 30.4 seconds remaining, Hughes changed those thoughts. The recipient of a defensive turnover in front of Conklin, Hughes wheeled in front and pushed a backhanded along the ice and past Conklin for the game-winner.
“I don’t know if it was a turnover or a pass, but it came right to me,” said Hughes of the goal. “I just wheeled around on the backhand and tried to shoot it. I didn’t try to pick a corner or anything. I just shot it and it went in.”
Hughes admitted that he had no idea where the puck beat Conklin, though replays seemed to show the puck squeaking under his right pad.
Eagles coach Jerry York described the win as “special,” especially since it gives BC a bit of breathing room over UNH in the race for the Hockey East title. BC entered the game with a two-point lead on the Wildcats, but threatened to allow the Wildcats within a game with a rematch on Sunday in Durham, N.H.
“One of our major goals is to win a [regular-season] championship,” said York. “It’s hard to do it and we haven’t won one in a while.
“That was what was in our face in the third period and we had to make something happen.”
The Eagles did exactly that, much to the dismay of UNH coach Dick Umile, who was disappointed that his team executed a heavy-forechecking game plan for the first two periods, only to have the BC offense break that down in the third.
“We just got manhandled in the third period all over the ice,” said Umile. “One-on-one, we couldn’t control them. It didn’t matter who [we had on the ice] to play them … they just beat us.”
Also spoiled was a magnificent performance by Conklin, who made numerous point-blank saves to maintain the UNH lead, even into the final minutes of the game.
“I felt bad for Ty [Conklin],” said Umile. “He deserved better than that for his effort.”
The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes due to traffic problems that UNH faced on its Friday evening commute south to Boston. The tight legs often associated with a long bus trip didn’t show for the Wildcats.
UNH carried the play early, but Hockey East’s least penalized club was hampered by early penalties. Simultaneous minors to Josh Prudden and Tim Horst gave BC a brief 5-on-3 advantage, erased partially by a J.D. Forrest penalty 28 seconds later.
UNH was whistled for five minors in the period to BC’s three, but neither team notched a power-play tally. UNH appeared to score with the man advantage at 14:19, but a penalty to Abbott for obstruction-interference was whistled before Prudden beat BC goaltender Scott Clemmensen (17 saves). Abbott, arguing in the face of referee Tim Benedetto, earned an extra 10-minute misconduct.
Regardless, the Wildcats finally got on the board before the end of the first when Prudden again found the net, this time legitimately. Set up in the slot by Colin Hemingway, Prudden fired a shot through a screen that beat Clemmensen over the left shoulder for the 1-0 Wildcat lead through one.
UNH extended its lead early in the second when defenseman Garrett Stafford caught BC on a line change with a long pass to Eric Lind. The senior winger broke in 2-on-1 and blasted a low, hard shot the beat Clemmensen at 3:17.
The Eagles had some golden opportunities to close the gap later in the frame when Forrest was left alone on the far post on the power play at 8:30. But Forrest didn’t time the Brian Gionta pass and ended up fanning on the one-timer, pulling the shot wide.
Gionta himself had a clear bid, setup alone in front by Ben Eaves at 14:12. But Gionta was too tight in on Conklin and never had a chance to pull the trigger.
BC’s dominance in the third began long before the flurry of goals. Ben Eaves was stopped three times with point-blank saves by Conklin and Dolinar was robbed when the Wildcat tender dove across the crease to make a highlight-reel save.
The loss dropped the Wildcats to third place, one point behind Providence, a 4-3 winner over Boston University. BC stands five points ahead of Providence and six ahead of UNH.