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College Hockey:
Ayers Rock-Solid, Hemingway Breaks Out In UNH Win Over BU

— Michael Ayers recorded his fifth shutout of the season, and co-captain Colin Hemingway netted two goals as No. 5 New Hampshire shut out No. 14 Boston University, 3-0, at the Whittemore Center.

The blanking by Ayers, the sixth of his career, set a new school record for shutouts in a season by a goaltender, breaking the mark held by All-American Ty Conklin in 2000-2001. Ayers stopped all 37 shots he faced, many of them in the category of spectacular.

“He’s legit. He’s consistently good. That’s what you want in a goaltender in this league,” said New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile. “I’m pleased. Ayers kept us in the game in the first period. They were all over us. But the guys found a way in the second and third (periods).”

The win by the Wildcats (17-5-3, 11-3-1 Hockey East) averted a season series sweep by the Terriers (14-10-2, 8-8-0). Earlier in the week, BU broke open a 2-2 game in the third with three quick strikes and went on to defeat UNH, 5-2, at Walter Brown Arena. On November 2 at the Whittemore Center, Boston University also prevailed, 3-2, despite being outplayed and outshot, 44-25.

They say turnabout is fair play, and on this night it was the Wildcats who came out on top, despite a dreadful shot disadvantage of 19-4 in favor of BU in the opening period. The Terriers held a commanding territorial edge in play for the better part of the first two periods.

However, a boatload of penalties — including two 10-minute misconduct calls — proved to be the Terriers’ undoing, as New Hampshire responded with two power-play goals.

“That game was a pathetic example of what happens with an undisciplined hockey team,” lamented BU coach Jack Parker. “Nothing much was going right for UNH, then we get involved with absolutely ridiculous penalties.

“It’s difficult to watch how stupid we are. It’s difficult to watch how undisciplined we are.”

Nevertheless, with two wins already under their belts against their Hockey East rival from the north (the same rival who took the season series last year, 2-0-1), the Terriers smelled blood and went right for the jugular at the drop of the puck.

Ayers had to be at his best right from the get-go.

The junior made a beauty less than three minutes into the contest on BU star defenseman Ryan Whitney, going airborne while stacking the pads. Later on in the first period, he stoned Justin Maiser from close in.

On a four-on-four situation later in the period, Ayers absolutely robbed BU’s Mark Mullen. The junior out of Dorchester, Mass., could only shake his head in disgust.

And with UNH’s Pat Foley off for holding at 13:19, Ayers kept it a 0-0 game with a big save off a shot from Brian McConnell, who had be set up nicely by leading scorer Frantisek Skladany.

The Terriers weren’t finished.

With some great individual work in front of Ayers, hulking forward Kenny Magowan did everything he could to stuff the puck home, but Ayers held the fort.

“Ayers played a great game. He’s a great goaltender. He really played a great first period,” said Parker.

Added Ayers, “when you get outshot that badly, it’s never positive. But they didn’t put the puck in the net. We needed to show those guys that we could play.”

Things didn’t change early on in the middle frame, however, as BU picked up where it left off after the first intermission.

Maiser had not one but two shots from in tight. How it remained a scoreless tie after that effort still remains a mystery.

Then, with UNH having trouble even registering meaningful shots on goal, the tide turned.

With Whitney being whistled off for interference, McConnell got into a tussle with New Hampshire’s Nathan Martz after the whistle had blown. Referee Conrad Hache sent him off to the sin bin as well, giving the Wildcats a 5-on-3 advantage.

With the way that Ayers was playing, you already had the feeling if you were a BU fan that it just might not be your night.

That suspicion was confirmed on the ensuing UNH power play, as Hemingway’s centering pass went off the leg of BU’s Mark Mullen and past Terrier netminder Sean Fields, giving New Hampshire a lead it would never relinquish. It was Hemingway’s 12th goal of the season. Despite having dominated the Wildcats to that point, BU found itself down, 1-0.

Boston University was undaunted, however, and continued with its onslaught.

With Ayers sprawled on the ice trying to take a way a shot by BU’s David Klemma, who went wide around the back of the UNH net, Wildcat defenseman Garrett Stafford saved a sure goal, getting just enough of his stick on Klemma’s wraparound attempt.

Frustrations started to mount for the Terriers, and at 14:30 of the second stanza, Skladany was tossed out of the game for being the third man in on a fight that happened when UNH defenseman Kevin Truelson crosschecked a BU player to the ice.

With the Wildcats hanging on to a 1-0 lead, UNH sophomore Sean Collins, who has as sneaky a wrist shot as you’ll see in the game, picked up a loose puck at center ice. Using a BU defenseman as a screen, Collins sent home one of his patented wristers past a stunned Fields, and it was 2-0 New Hampshire. It was Collins’ 13th goal of the year.

In the third period, things then went from bad to worse for the Terriers, as BU was whistled for a delay of game penalty. The Wildcats made good again with the man advantage, using a beautiful display of tic-tac-toe passing from Jim Abbott to Preston Callander, with a streaking Hemingway finishing things off by scoring his second of the night into a wide-open net to finish out the scoring: UNH 3, BU 0.

Hemingway, who had been in a goal-scoring drought, was glad to get back to doing what he does best.

“It feels good to put a couple in the back of the net. I’d by lying if I told you it wasn’t bothering me. I knew it was just a matter of time.”

Parker, who took a considerable amount of time to address his team privately before coming out for the media, didn’t lay any blame for his team’s 14 penalties on the officiating.

“Our problems were not with the referees tonight, but with our players,” said the 29-year BU coach. “just real, stupid, unnecessary penalties.”

With his team having been outplayed for better than half the game, Umile was just glad to escape with two points.

“You can’t afford to get swept in this league,” he said.

Boston University hosts Merrimack on Thursday, January 30. New Hampshire prepares to host a big weekend series with Maine, beginning on Saturday, February 1, at the Verizon Center in Manchester, N.H.

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