DURHAM, N.H. — Saturday night: protocol violation. Sunday night: too many men on the ice. Both nights: New Hampshire takes advantage on the power play and scores the game-winning goal.
UNH rallied from a late second-period 2-1 deficit to score three goals in two and a half minutes to defeat St. Lawrence in the Ice Breaker Tournament championship game, 4-2. Josh Ciocco scored his first collegiate goal late in the second period to tie the contest, setting the stage for Sean Collins’ two goals just 25 seconds apart early in third.
New Hampshire finished with six power-play goals in the tournament while allowing only one. Against Ohio State, UNH capitalized on a protocol violation penalty after the Buckeyes returned to the ice too late following intermission, using that five-on-three to score the game-winner.
Against St. Lawrence, the self-inflicted wound was a too many men on the ice penalty in the opening minute of the third period. Collins needed just 12 seconds to score the game-winner and followed it up with another on a breakaway.
“They have that ability to burn you,” said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh. “Even if you’re playing well, you have nothing to show for it. All of a sudden they can counter and they’ve got a couple of guys who can really put it away.
“That’s the difference, why they’re a better team than we are right now. You can’t keep giving a team like that power plays, [but] we certainly have a lot of work to do on our own because we were 0-for-17 this weekend.
“It’s very discouraging in terms of the outcome, but I’m happy with the way that we played. I thought we played hard coming into a building like this. There’s only one way we’re going to get better and that is to go into the lions’ den and do something to be successful.”
UNH coach Richard Umile liked what he saw of his team in its opening weekend.
“I’m pleased with the way we played,” he said. “I know we made some mistakes, but this is one week [into the season]. We played two games without an exhibition game and came out with two wins against two good programs. We played a lot of new people [in the lineup]. I’m pleased not just with the Ws, but also with how the team played and then responded.”
While UNH’s six power-play goals on the weekend attracted the most attention, its ability to shut down opposing teams while shorthanded was every bit as vital. Ohio State was only 1-for-8, which included multiple five-on-threes, while St. Lawrence was 0-for-8.
“We did a really good job on the shorthand and that included a lot of people,” said Umile. “We used a lot of units.”
Goaltender Kevin Regan, playing in his first collegiate game, stopped 36-of-38 shots.
Not surprisingly, UNH dominated the tournament honors. Collins and Brett Hemingway were named co-MVPs in addition to their berths on the All-Tournament Team where they were joined by teammate Brian Yandle on defense. Also selected were: goaltender Mike McKenna (St. Lawrence), defenseman Sean Collins (Ohio State, no relation) and forward Dave Iannazzo (St. Cloud State).
The game opened with yet another early penalty called and UNH went on the power play just 20 seconds in. As they did four times against Ohio State, the Wildcats capitalized. Yandle dropped down from the right point in a give-and-go that didn’t completely click, but then from down near the right post he slid the puck over to Hemingway on left side where he buried it for his third power-play goal of the tournament.
With power plays the norm after eight non-matching penalties were called, offensive opportunities abounded in the period. St. Lawrence attempted 35 shots to 20 for UNH; actual shots on goal finished with a less lopsided margin of 14-12.
St. Lawrence got the equalizer 6:33 into the second period off the stick of Mike Madill. The defenseman carried the puck into the zone from the left wing and beat Regan short side.
The Saints really quieted the crowd seven minutes later when they seized their first lead. Max Taylor broke in on the right side, got off a shot in close and then swatted the rebound in out of midair.
Trailing 2-1, the Wildcats got Ciocco’s pivotal goal at 18:56. Although missing by four seconds the category of the proverbial backbreaker in the final minute of a period, Ciocco’s collegiate first was a monster in momentum. Mike Radja won the draw back to Craig Switzer and from the left point the freshman defenseman put the puck on net where it deflected in off Ciocco’s shin pad.
“I’m not going to lie,” Ciocco said with a grin. “It wasn’t the prettiest goal, that’s for sure. But it was good for momentum because they had a lot of pressure on us. And they all count, too.”
Having evened the game, UNH came out roaring in the third period. Armed with another power play because of SLU’s too many men on the ice penalty, Collins stuffed his first of the year through McKenna’s pads at the 55-second mark. Just 25 seconds later, Daniel Winnik’s pass sprung Collins for a breakaway and the sniper ripped his shot through the five-hole for a 4-2 lead.
Although the period wouldn’t conclude until a total of 31 shots had been put on net, 16 by St. Lawrence and 15 by UNH, there would be no scoring over the final 18:40.
Ironically, the two teams will act as travel partners next weekend when they invade Michigan State and Michigan.