BOSTON — Fittingly for St. Patrick’s Day in Boston, New Hampshire ran into a serious case of Murphy’s Law.
The first three minutes of the game went just as UNH hoped. For the vast majority of the last 57 minutes, if anything could go wrong for the Wildcats, it did.
After going on a power play in the first two minutes and scoring a minute later, UNH ended up surrendering goals in bigger bunches and at a faster rate each period. Boston University scored two goals in 82 seconds in the first period, three goals in a 6:19 span of the second, and four goals in a 2:54 stretch early in the final frame.
By the end of the night, the Terriers had more than avenged a stifling 5-2 one year ago, handing UNH a resounding 9-2 victory in the first game of the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Banknorth Garden.
David Van der Gulik notched his third collegiate hat trick and an assist, while Dan Spang enjoyed a four-point night as well with two goals and two assists. Bryan Ewing added a pair of goals for the Terriers, while Jacob Micflikier scored both Wildcat goals.
“It was an aberration, wasn’t it?” Terrier coach Jack Parker said, acknowledging that the margin was not what anyone had expected.
“I thought in the second period UNH played as well as we did or better, and we got all the goals, for the most part. They got one late. Then in the third period we got one right away, and that was the end of the game.
“It was bizarre in some ways, and I’ve watched it happen to us. We lost 9-1 in the NCAA final against Lake [Superior] State, when everything just jumped in the net, and there was nothing we could do about it. That’s what happened to us tonight. We played very, very well tonight in a whole bunch of ways: We had some really nice goals; we had guys going to the net hard.”
Wildcat coach Dick Umile, meanwhile, offered a where-can-I-even-begin expression to the media.
“Not a whole hell of a lot to say other than to congratulate BU,” Umile said. “Obviously they came out and had a lot more jump than we did. I thought there was a time in the second period where we playing okay but they finished the opportunities they had at the net — just outplayed us.
“I’m real disappointed with how we fought tonight, but I don’t want to take anything away from BU. They played very well, and we didn’t, and they created headaches for us.”
The game started on a sour note for the Terriers. With newly-crowned Hockey East Rookie of the Year Brandon Yip in the penalty box less than two minutes into play, UNH capitalized with a power-play goal.
Off an offensive-zone faceoff, Brian Yandle did a nice job of keeping the puck in the zone and dishing low to Brett Hemingway on the left-wing side of the slot. The junior slipped a backhanded pass to Jacob Micflikier on the right-wing side, and his one-timer beat BU goalie John Curry from 15 feet.
A Terrier power play helped get their offense in gear, and then the all-freshman line of Yip, Chris Higgins, and Jason Lawrence took the energy up a notch before the BU fourth line got the Terriers on the scoreboard at 9:06.
On a delayed penalty call, winger Ryan Weston fought off two Wildcats behind the UNH goal line before feeding it to Brian McGuirk for a sharp-angle shot from low in the right-wing faceoff circle. UNH goalie Kevin Regan stopped it, but senior d-man Dan Spang was there to bang home the rebound.
“They called a penalty so I just jumped in the slot,” Spang said. Brian McGuirk had a great shot from the corner, and I was fortunate that the rebound went right on my tape.”
BU struck again just 82 seconds later. Senior blueliner Jekabs Redlihs picked up a loose puck high in the UNH zone and carried it to the left-wing boards and behind the goal line before slipping a pass to Van der Gulik for a tap into the net.
“The first two we just gave them, standing around,” Umile said. “And then they just came with speed, and we didn’t do a good job with the speed.”
The teams played a spirited second half of the period. BU ended up with a 17-12 shot advantage in an offensive-minded battle, but UNH had some good chances — most notably on a power play at 13:50 when the puck was loose in the crease with Jerry Pollastrone and Trevor Smith swarming to no avail.
Both teams had pretty good bids, especially with the man-advantage, but couldn’t score. BU also had some great hits, with Yip leveling freshman Jamie Fritsch at 8:00 and McGuirk hammering freshman Joe Charlebois to energize the Terriers at 16:45.
BU blew it open in the second stanza. After a cautious stretch to start the period, Wildcat center Daniel Winnik got a shot while falling down for a good chance at the seven-minute mark. BU countered with a two-on-one half a minute later. Van der Gulik raced down the left wing and sold the idea of passing to linemate John Laliberte before burying a short-side to make it 3-1.
Less than four minutes later, the Terriers struck again off a faceoff in the attacking zone. Pete MacArthur won the draw back to freshman Matt Gilroy at the right point. Gilroy blasted a slapshot that hit a Wildcat stick and changed direction, fooling Regan.
Two minutes and change later, BU made it 5-1 when Brad Zancanaro raced in on the right wing and crossed to Van der Gulik at the far post. The resulting tap-in gave Van der Gulik his third collegiate hat trick and second in his last three games.
UNH bounced back just 45 seconds later on a power play. Brett Hemingway crossed the puck from the right point to Micflikier on the left-wing side. With his back to the net, Micflikier whipped a gorgeous backhander that beat Curry high on the glove side to make it 5-2.
The death knell for UNH struck just 42 seconds into the third period, when Wildcat left wing Mike Radja knocked the puck into his own net on a Ewing wraparound bid. For good measure, Van der Gulik and Zancanaro teamed up at 2:07 to make it 7-2.
That chased Regan in favor of Jeff Pietrasiak in the Wildcat net. The senior was rudely greeted, surrendering two goals in 15 seconds after just 74 seconds in net. Ewing tipped in a Gilroy shot at 3:21, and then Spang got his second goal on a slapper at 3:36.
“It was a little surreal,” Spang said. “It just seemed like pucks were going bang-bang, tape to tape. They just kept finding the back of the net. It’s almost like the puck had eyes for us, so we were fortunate to get the opportunities.”
We had a lot of puck luck tonight, but tomorrow’s going to be a whole new game. “We had an unbelievable amount of puck luck,” Parker said. “I would like to save a little for tomorrow.”
While BU (23-9-4) awaits the winner of the Boston College-Maine game in the second semifinal, UNH (20-12-7) is left to see if its 20-win season would be enough to gain at at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.