DURHAM, N.H. — When Boston College knotted Saturday’s game with New Hampshire at two early in the third period, there’s no doubt that Wildcats’ coach Dick Umile was concerned his club could be in the midst of a lost weekend.
UNH, which dominated Friday night’s game with Mass.-Lowell but came away with a 2-2 tie, led from the get-go on Saturday, only to see that lead slip away in the third.
Instead of wilting, the Wildcats responded with the game’s final three goals in a 5-2 victory over the Eagles in a rematch of last year’s Hockey East title game.
“The team responded well,” said Umile of his club’s ability to answer BC’s tying goal at the four-minute mark of the third with what amounted to the winning goal 1:16 later. “We struggled to score last night, so it was important for us to come out and score some goals tonight.”
The Eagles, in essence, had played the perfect road game much of the evening. Short five players due to either injury or suspension (see sidebar), BC fell behind early but kept pressuring the Wildcats throughout and opportunistically scored goals that put them in position to win in the final period.
“Deep into the game, we played the type of game that we had to in order to win here,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “But just as we got back to a tie ballgame we made a couple of poor decisions in our own zone and [UNH] capitalized.”
The winning goal came off the stick of defenseman Brad Flaishans, who found open space above the left faceoff circle and fired a shot that knuckled towards the net, beating Eagles’ goaltender John Muse (26 saves) glove side at 5:16.
“I used to kid him about his shot,” said Umile about Flaishans, who has scored goals in four of the last five games for UNH. “Obviously, he’s developed a pretty good shot.”
From there, UNH tacked on two additional goals to break things open. Craig Switzer blasted home a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle at 12:26, and James vanReimsdky netted his third of the year at 14:49, scoring on a partial breakaway to seal the win.
A major key to victory for the Wildcats was the play of their penalty kill. Though they allowed one goal in eight Eagle power plays, the penalty kill units primarily kept BC to the perimeter with the man advantage, making it difficult to get quality shots.
“You really need to not give [BC] a lot of time and space [on the power play],” said Umile. “That was our goal tonight.”
A sloppy opening period saw UNH jump out to a 2-0 lead thanks to defensive mistakes by the Eagles. The Wildcats opened the scoring just 2:50 into play when Mike Radja’s centering pass deflected off the stick of BC defender Nick Petrecki and over the right shoulder of Muse.
As BC struggled to penetrate the Wildcats’ defense, UNH extended the lead, capitalizing on an Eagles mistake at the defensive blue line. As Greg Collins carried the puck in for the Wildcats, the BC defenders split, giving him a clear path to the net where he tucked the puck inside the right post for a 2-0 Wildcat lead through one.
In the second, BC climbed back into the game. Andrew Orpik took advantage of a poorly-timed UNH line change, grabbing a pass from Tim Filangeri and walking in alone on Regan, burying the puck five-hole at 11:07 to pull the Eagles within a goal.
BC had additional chances to draw even, most notably on three power plays in the second period, but the UNH penalty kill forced the play to the perimeter, not allowing the Eagles to muster any offense, sending the game to the third period with UNH holding the one-goal lead.
The Eagles finally capitalized on the power play early in the third to draw even. Ryan Hayes picked a Ben Smith pass out of midair from the goal mouth at 4:00 and put it past UNH goaltender Tim Regan (24 saves) for his second goal of the season.
Flaishans ability to respond quickly, though, seemed to take the wind out of BC’s sails and propel the Wildcats to the win.
Saturday’s loss ends the Eagles’ seven-game unbeaten streak and puts an end to a weekend that was extremely frustrating for York and his club. Friday, BC outplayed and outshot Merrimack, but could only muster a 3-3 tie.
“Just to get one point in the weekend is not what we envisioned coming in,” said York.