DURHAM, N.H. — The canard states that it’s better to be lucky than to be good. In Ty Conklin’s case, he got lucky twice while the rest of the time he was much, much better than good. The senior goaltender stopped 30 Boston College shots to lead New Hampshire to a 2-0 win and a split of the weekend’s series.
As a result, UNH (19-9-6, 10-7-5 HEA) moves into a tie with Providence for second place. The Friars, however, hold two games in hand. Boston College (23-8-1, 14-5-1 HEA) remains safely atop the Hockey East standings, four points ahead of Providence and UNH.
The win followed a bitter loss to BC on Friday night, a game which the Wildcats led, 2-0, until midway through the third period only to lose 3-2 in regulation. Conklin made 45 saves in that game, but faced 22 shots in the crucial third period.
Not so this time. New Hampshire got out of the gate slowly, not generating its first shot on net until the nine-minute mark and generally getting outplayed in the first period. However, the Wildcats improved their play in the second and third periods.
“I’m really pleased with the way the team came back after a disappointing loss down at Conte Forum,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “I thought the team came out and played a great 60-minute hockey game against, if not the top team in the country, the second top team in the country.”
Umile added that his team played much better in the third period because of “a sense of pride that the team took. We weren’t going to be denied tonight.”
The win gives UNH the rubber game in the season’s three-game series between the two teams, which should give the Wildcats a major confidence boost just two games shy of the Hockey East playoffs.
“When you beat Boston College two out of three, that says a lot,” said Umile.
From the Eagles’ perspective, the loss wasn’t the desired result, but was hardly the end of the world. When BC coach Jerry York was asked if the numerous missed opportunities made this a game that gave him nightmares, he expressed almost the exact opposite opinion.
“What gives me nightmares is when we play a game where we don’t have any chances, aren’t moving the puck or maybe are lethargic,” he said. “I like to create chances and over the course of a game, generally they go in if you create that many good chances. On some, Ty made outstanding saves. Sometimes we just didn’t finish.
“It’s important for us just to play well. That’s our objective. Generally, the wins take care of themselves that way.
“I thought we played very well so that means New Hampshire played excellent hockey. To keep us at zero, they did a lot of good things defensively besides just the goaltender. It’s too easy to say, ‘Hey, the goaltender played well and just shut us out.’ They played pretty well as a team defensively.”
Boston College held a significant territorial advantage in the first period, outattempting and outshooting UNH, 18-7 and 13-5, respectively. However, the Wildcats were opportunistic in the offensive end and Conklin got the two breaks he needed.
Conklin’s first bit of luck came in the opening minute when a shot from a sharp angle got through his pads and slid through the crease, but stayed wide. For the next 18 minutes, though, Conklin needed no luck as he made one excellent save after another.
At the three-minute mark, he stoned Brian Gionta on a breakaway. A subsequent Gionta deflection would require another sharp save. Mike Lephart and Jeff Giuliano then broke two-on-one while shorthanded, but Kevin Truelson helped foil the bid.
Not until the game was nine minutes old would UNH get its first shot on goal. Although that chance was an exceptional one on a cold goaltender, Scott Clemmensen made the stop on Lanny Gare’s shot from the slot.
Just short of the midway point, Clemmensen made another big save on a UNH three-on-one while on the power play, thwarting a Gare to Colin Hemingway setup.
Two minutes later, Conklin gave Ales Dolinar nothing to shoot at from the doorstep, both on the original shot and the rebound.
Having been outplayed by a good margin to that point, UNH promptly grabbed the lead on an Eric Lind rush up the right wing, followed by a pass to David Busch on the weak-side post. Busch converted for his eighth goal of the year.
“The fact that we got the first goal was real important,” said Umile. “Giving [Ty] the lead is always a plus for us.”
Conklin then stoned Chuck Kobasew on the doorstep and then again on the rebound to maintain the lead.
With 25 seconds left in the period, the Hobey Baker candidate caught his biggest break of the evening. He ranged behind the net while shorthanded and looked to clear the puck through the middle. Unfortunately for him, he made what amounted to a tape-to-tape pass to Kobasew in the slot. With the tying goal all but certain, Eric Lind got a piece of the BC freshman’s shot and deflected it wide.
“I thought that was the best save of the game,” said Conklin. “I was speechless. I couldn’t believe I’d done that. Ten seconds later, I cleared the puck and [Eric] gave me a little grief, telling me that I did a lot better job that time.”
The second period was a flurry of golden opportunities for both sides, without any scoring actually taking place.
Ben Eaves and Gionta threatened on one opportunity while late in the period Conklin again stopped Kobasew cold at the doorstep.
For UNH, Jeff Haydar and C.J. Ficek broke two-on-one early as Haydar exited the penalty box. Three minutes later, Hemingway and Gare duplicated the rush, but Gare shot wide.
At 4:54 of the third period, the Wildcats added a big insurance goal on the power play. Sean Austin shot from the point and Nathan Martz tipped it from the slot area past Clemmensen.
The Eagles pushed for a goal to bring them within one, but couldn’t beat Conklin. At the other end, Clemmensen had to be sharp to keep BC within striking range, stopping a Jim Abbott and Ficek two-on-one and then a Johnny Rodgers breakaway.
York pulled Clemmensen with 1:07 remaining, but Conklin again stood tall.
New Hampshire is off next weekend while Boston College faces UMass-Amherst in a home-and-home series.