CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — As much as coaches preach Xs and Os in hopes of finding the winning formula, sometimes it’s equally as effective to have power plays and puck luck on your side.
In Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving matchup between New Hampshire and Boston College, the Wildcats feasted. UNH scored twice on the power play and benefited from two key bounces in the third period that broke open a 3-3 tie en route to a 6-3 victory for UNH in front of a sellout crowd of 7,884 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
Boston College evened the game at three in the closing seconds of the second period and appeared to have all the momentum on its side. But UNH showed resiliency and came out in the third period with jump. Early in the frame the Wildcats were rewarded with the game-winning goal when a Chris Murray slapshot deflected off multiple legs and past BC netminder Cory Schneider (26 saves).
“When you’re leading and have the chance to go [into the third period] up by a goal against Boston College at Conte Forum, that’s what you want to do,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We made a bad play on our part and gave up a late goal, but we stayed composed. The guys knew that it was a 20-minute hockey game and we came out and played well.”
UNH’s solid third period play translated on the scoreboard. In addition to Murray’s game-winner on the power play, Jerry Pollastrone was credited with a goal when BC’s Carl Sneep attempted to clear the puck from behind his net and instead banked the puck off Pollastrone’s leg and past Schneider. Trevor Smith’s 11th goal of the season with 1:33 remaining accounted for the 6-3 final.
A fast-paced first period saw both teams trade power-play goals early. UNH got on the board first when a Jamie Fritsche blast from the point beat Schneider cleanly over the glove at 2:25 . Less than five minutes later, at 7:23, BC answered when Brett Motherwell’s misfired one-timer from the point was just slow enough for Joe Rooney to deflect past UNH netminder Kevin Regan (21 saves) to even the game at one.
Before the frame ended, UNH jumped back in front when Matt Fornataro took a perfect pass from along the halfboard from Smith and sniped a shot glove side on Schneider at 17:32 to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead through one.
In the second, the Eagles evened the game early. Brock Bradford finished off a Nathan Gerbe pass on a three-on-two at 4:28 to knot the game at two.
At 4:28, UNH took its third lead of the game. Just seconds after BC’s Brian Boyle hit the right post at one end, junior Mike Radja picked up a loose puck at center ice, maneuvered around two defensemen at the other end, finishing the play with a nifty move around Schneider potting the puck in the empty net to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
After both teams mustered quality chances later in the second, it appeared UNH would skate to the third with the lead. But a careless UNH turnover in the closing second allowed BC to even the game.
With the Eagles on the power play, a UNH clearing pass bounced off the skate of BC’s Motherwell. As the puck trickled towards the left faceoff dot, Benn Ferriero quickly turned and blasted a slapshot that caught Regan by surprise, beating him top left corner with 4.3 seconds remaining to even the game at three heading to the third.
That, though, set up UNH’s explosive third period in which Schneider matched a season high for goals allowed (three). BC head coach Jerry York was quick to admit that Wednesday’s game was far from Schneider’s best, but wouldn’t place all the blame squarely on his shoulders.
“He wasn’t really on top of his game tonight. There were a couple of goals he’d like to get back,” said York about Schneider. “But when he’s like that, we’ve got to be even tighter defensively. Six guys are responsible for goals against.”
The win extends UNH’s current unbeaten streak to seven games 6-0-1 and gives the Wildcats a four-point lead over BC, Vermont and Boston University for first place in Hockey East. BC, which hasn’t posted back-to-back wins since October 28, saw its modest three-game unbeaten streak come to an end.
BC will remain idle for the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend and will return to action next Friday and Saturday night, December 1 and 2, with a home-and-home series against archrival Boston University .
UNH can take a couple of days to enjoy its Thanksgiving dinner but will face off against Northeastern on the road on Saturday night.