MANCHESTER, N.H. — If a tie is like kissing your sister, then this draw featured two perfect 10s.
A showcase matchup of two national powers did not disappoint a crowd of 10,104 at the Verizon Wireless Arena, and when the final buzzer sounded, No. 2 New Hampshire clawed back from a 2-0 third-period deficit to tie No. 3 Boston College, 2-2, in thrilling fashion.
With New Hampshire goalie Mike Ayers out for an extra skater, senior Nathan Martz got the equalizer with just 1:09 left in the game.
Ayers was basically the only reason that the Wildcats were in the game at all before Martz’s heroics, stonewalling an onslaught of BC shots, some of them miraculous.
“Our team played very well against a strong New Hampshire team,” said an obviously disappointed Jerry York of his Eagles. “We were solid in all three zones. We generated a lot of good scoring chances.
“Those are two teams that will contend for championships.”
York was impressed with how well his team contained the Wildcats while at full strength.
“Five-on-five we kept their scoring chances to a real minimum.”
Ironically, it was when UNH had the extra skater that posed problems for the Eagles. Coming into the contest, the Eagles’ penalty-killing unit was running at close to a 95 percent success rate, and had killed off 24 straight.
But with Boston College holding a seemingly insurmountable lead at 2-0, while holding the Wildcats to a paltry nine shots combined through two periods, John Adams went off for obstruction-tripping at 5:03.
That left the door open for freshman sensation Jacob Micflikier to take the rebound of a deflected shot, and put it into a wide open net behind BC junior netminder Matti Kaltiainen, getting UNH back into a game that they had clearly been outplayed in at that point.
“I’m pleased that we pulled out a tie. We were lucky in the OT,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “The guys gutted it out in the third period and found a way.”
Boston College saw its record go to 5-2-2 (2-0-1 Hockey East), while New Hampshire went to 6-1-1 (3-0-1 HE). With the last-second heroics of Martz, York was denied his 674th win, which would have moved him past legendary BC coach Len Ceglarski into third place all-time.
BC didn’t look the least bit intimidated during the first period, and at 3:46, Patrick Eaves scored his second goal of the year unassisted when he pounced on a rebound of a shot initially stopped by Ayers. Eaves went five-hole to put the visitors on the scoreboard, 1-0.
BC had given up all of four goals in their last four games, and that strong defensive play was evident against the Wildcats. New Hampshire couldn’t get anything going for the better part of two and half periods against the trapping style and forecheck of the Eagles. UNH didn’t register a shot on goal in the first period until almost five minutes had elapsed.
Ayers robbed BC senior Tony Voce on the power play and later he stoned Voce again in close to keep it a one-goal game after one.
BC’s Ryan Shannon quieted an already subdued UNH crowd with his third goal of the season three minutes into the second period, sending one past a stunned Ayers.
“Definitely one I should have had,” said Ayers of the second BC goal.
UNH didn’t help its cause much by spending over seven minutes shorthanded in the period with five trips to the sin bin.
The score remained 2-1 throughout the third period, with Ayers having to come up big on shots by Voce and Ben Eaves. Then with less than five minutes remaining, Ayers made the save of the game.
Ben Eaves dug the puck out of the corner to the right of Ayers, and fed brother Patrick, who was all alone in front of Ayers. The sophomore ripped a wrist shot that Ayers jumped in the air at, catching it with his glove.
Said Patrick Eaves, “My brother had the puck in the corner. He fed it out to me; I just wanted to get it upstairs. That was an unbelievable save.”
Which created all the more drama for Martz to knot things up, with Ayers on the bench.
“[Justin] Aikins made a great dump-in out of the corner. The puck bounced right up to me,” said Martz. “I saw an opening at the back of [Kaltiainen's] pads, and I banked it in off him.”
In the extra session, both goaltenders came up big, with Ayers making a huge left pad save off Voce, and Kaltiainen committing grand theft off a great shot by UNH senior captain Steve Saviano.
Ever since defeating UNH in the Hockey East Championship game back in 1999, things haven’t gone too well for the Eagles against the Wildcats; BC has now gone 3-9-2 since then, 0-6-2 in the last eight contests.
Boston College and New Hampshire get right back at it on Friday, Nov. 14, with the Eagles taking on Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., while New Hampshire travels to Providence. Game time is 7 p.m. for both contests.