AMHERST, Mass. — Friday’s game between No. 4 New Hampshire and Hockey East bottom feeder UMass-Amherst wasn’t over before it started, as some pundits might have contended.
Instead it was over 29 seconds after the opening faceoff, when Darren Haydar turned a neutral-zone turnover into a highlight-reel effort.
The All-American pickpocketed UMass-Amherst forward Thomas Pock at center ice before dashing across the blue line and lacing a wrist shot over Mike Johnson’s right shoulder for a 1-0 New Hampshire lead.
That goal sucked the wind out of the Minutemen’s (7-15-1, 2-10-1 HEA) already porous sails while bolstering the Wildcats (16-4-2, 8-2-2 HEA) to a 5-1 victory.
Colin Hemingway gave UNH a two-goal advantage just under 11 minutes later. The Minutemen won a faceoff in their own defensive zone but a failed clearing attempt by captain Toni Soderholm found its way to Lanny Gare, who spotted Hemingway cutting across the goalmouth. The junior forward skated around a sprawling Johnson and fired home his 17th tally of the season.
The Minutemen stymied the UNH offense in the second period with physical play and a swarming defense, but the lowest-rated attack in Hockey East could do nothing but pepper UNH goalie Michael Ayers with shots.
UMass actually outshot the Wildcats 10-6 in the middle frame and dominated the offensive play in the period. But the Minutemen’s inability to light the lamp came to the forefront as they squandered three power-play opportunities and numerous scoring chances en route to a middle frame donut.
“We missed a lot of chances,” UMass head coach Don Cahoon said. “Chances I am sure other teams would have put home.”
Ayers was outstanding in the second period when the home attack was at its most furious. He fought through the traffic that was consistently in front of him to make save after save on the buzzing UMass forwards.
“He made a couple of great saves in the second period,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “That was a real key point in the game for us.”
It took a three-on-none break for the Minutemen to finally get on the board as Jimmy Callahan shelfed a feed from linemate J.R. Zavisza to cut the lead to 2-1 early in the third period.
But an ill-advised penalty from Pock gave UNH a power play, and the one-goal deficit began to snowball.
“I thought we were right where we wanted to be against a team like this,” Cahoon said. “Than we take a penalty and our special teams collapse.”
Haydar notched his second goal of the game on the power play to make it a 3-1 game and Tim Horst and Josh Prudden followed to balloon the score to a 5-1 final.
“That was a huge momentum swing,” said Umile of Haydar’s power-play tally. “UMass did a good job of containing us and getting back in the game, but that goal really opened it up.”
With the loss UMass secures its hold on last place in Hockey East while New Hampshire potentially puts itself in first place with a Lowell loss to Northeastern. The Wildcats and the Minutemen will finish up the back end of a home-and-home Saturday night in Durham, N.H.