DURHAM, N.H. — The omen of bad luck from Friday the 13th translated onto the ice for No. 12 New Hampshire, as they gave up a two goal lead in the third period to settle for a 4-4 tie with Providence College.
Just as the masked face of Jason in the famous horror movie has become the prime identity of the film, the faceoffs in this hockey game played a defining role where two Friars’ goals and one UNH tally came.
“You can run some plays off faceoffs, but plays don’t work if you don’t win the faceoff, so if you win it you have a fighting chance,” said Providence coach Tim Army. “The second goal we gave one up, we just played it really poorly…we just fortunately won a couple faceoffs; the (Matt) Taormina goal, (Nick) Mazzolini won the faceoff, and the on the (Pierce) Norton goal, (Kyle) MacKinnon won the faceoff, so if you win it clean some good things can happen.”
A frustrated Umile added, “I told the team offensively I thought we played as well as we’ve played with the puck, but defensively, okay,” he said. “There were two bad plays with faceoffs in our own end. I think they scored twice off the faceoffs, back to the point, one was to the point, one to the slot, not good defensive coverage by us. It’s frustrating giving up the point when I thought we played well offensively.”
The Wildcats outshot the Friars 40-24 and the offensive aggression was there from the beginning as the Wildcats got on the board first. Senior Kevin Kapstad fed the puck to Alan Thompson in the center slot, who then slid the rubber past Friar net minder Alex Beaudry’s [36 saves] skates at 9:42.
Seven minutes later, Providence struck back when sophomore MacKinnon ripped a wrist shot from the left point past Wildcats’ goalie Brian Foster [20 saves] to tie it up.
Just as the period was about to end, the first penalty of the game was called on Providence’s Eric Baier for holding at 19:15. With minimal time on the clock, the Wildcats generated a power-play goal with a six-on-four advantage after pulling Foster. Phil DeSimone won the faceoff, feeding it back to Bobby Butler, who in turn sent the puck to the crease, where Peter LeBlanc one-timed it in just as the buzzer sounded to put UNH back on top.
In the second stanza, UNH didn’t waste any time regaining the momentum as rookie Blake Kessel scored at 3:31 to give his team a two-goal lead. Jerry Pollastrone passed it to Kessel, who was waiting stick side by Beaudry to pot his fifth goal of the season.
However, Providence rallied after Mazzolini won the faceoff and got the puck to David Brown. The rookie tapped it to Taormina, who then scored off a slap shot from the blue line to get the Friars back in the running at 12:54.
The Wildcats tallied their second power-play goal of the night when Taormina was sent to the box for hooking 33 seconds into the third period. DeSimone sent a cross ice pass from down low in the Friars zone to Butler’s stick, who one-timed it from the left faceoff circle for his second power-play goal of the season.
Providence answered again four minutes later when MacKinnon tallied his second goal of the night, pushing his team to trail by one.
The deficit was wiped clear when MacKinnon won the faceoff and got the puck to Norton, who was able to deliver one past Foster from the center slot at 15:28, sending the game into a scoreless overtime.
The Wildcats, now 13-9-5 overall and 9-7-4 HE, are in a tight battle with Mass.-Lowell and Boston College in the fight for home ice in the playoffs, whereas the Friars (7-16-4, 4-12-4 HE) are just trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel, currently sitting second to last in the Hockey East standings.
“We’re fighting for our playoff lives obviously,” said Army. “We haven’t gotten a point up here [at the Whittemore Center] in my four years so it’s been a tough place for us. I think as we’ve gotten faster throughout our lineup we’ve been inching closer, but to fall behind 3-1, 4-2, against a really good team in a traditionally tough place for us to play, I thought it showed a lot of character and it’s a good point.”
Umile emphasized the importance of tomorrow’s game in Providence: “It makes it that much more important if you want to get home ice,” he said. “I think Lowell beat BC and is now ahead of us…it’s two points out there. It’s going to be a battle right to the end, every point is important.”