DURHAM, N.H. — In a crucial Hockey East showdown, New Hampshire sophomores led the way with three goals against Boston College, good enough to stay in the lead for the 3-2 victory and maintain the fourth spot in the Hockey East standings for home ice in the playoffs.
The Wildcats currently sit two points behind Vermont and two ahead of UMass-Lowell.
In each of the last two meetings between the teams, the Eagles have rallied from three goal deficits to win, but this time BC fell short, only getting two tallies by UNH netminder Brian Foster (33 saves).
Sensational sophomores excelled on special teams. Mike Sislo tallied the game winner on the power play, and classmate James van Riemsdyk potted a shorthander while Phil DeSimone’s was at even strength.
“I think special teams is huge, especially in a game where they get a lot of penalties (five), we get a lot of penalties (six); it’s a big part of the game,” said Sislo. “It’s important for our power play to get going, get momentum. Even if you don’t score on a power play, getting momentum by getting shots creates the momentum for your team. Then on the penalty kill, it’s huge if we can shut them down, and we were able to do that tonight, so that was big.”
The first Wildcat goal came early in the first after one of their own was sent to the box.
But just because Mike Beck took a seat for slashing at 2:22 does not mean that the rest of his team was going to take a breather too. Less than a minute later, Wildcat scoring leader van Riemsdyk took control of the puck off a BC turnover, secured the breakaway, and nabbed his third shorthanded goal of the season to get UNH on the board.
DeSimone doubled the lead with a highlight-reel goal with five minutes left in the opening stanza. DeSimone picked up the puck at center ice off a feed from Bobby Butler and Jamie Fritsch, skillfully dodged every Eagle in his path, and beat BC goaltender John Muse [25 saves] for his sixth goal of the year at 15:00.
In the second, the Wildcats kept up the aggression, generating a power-play goal when BC’s Nick Petrecki was penalized for hitting from behind four minutes in. In the Eagle zone, the puck went from Jerry Pollastrone to Kevin Kapstad and landed at Sislo’s stick, who one-timed it from the left face off circle to the upper right corner of the net, adding his fifth power play goal to the stat sheet.
“I thought we moved it really well today on the power play,” said Sislo. “We moved it all around and were able to spread it out and we were able to get open for shots. [Greg] Collins had a great screen there on the shot I had, so I don’t think Muse saw it at all.”
But just like that, the Eagles were back in it with two goals. The first came at 11:06 when rookie Paul Carey swooped down the right wing–shooting what looked to be a saved puck–but then it barely trickled in past Foster to put BC on the board.
Five minutes later senior Tim Kunes also tallied a close call, slipping it by Foster at 16:19.
With 24.2 seconds on the clock in the second period, BC celebrated what they thought was the tying goal, but since captain Brock Bradford’s hand put the puck in, it was disallowed. And soon after in the third period the Eagles thought they were flying high again when the puck went in after a crowded fumble at Foster’s crease. But the Eagles were shot down for a second time when, after review, the refs declared no goal because the puck went in after the whistle.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” said UNH coach Dick Umile, who’s team improves to 15-9-5 overall, 11-7-4 in Hockey East. “We got off to a three zip start and I’m just saying, boy, I’m getting greedy because if we could ever get a fourth one, because you know BC was going to get back into the game, which they did. Our team battled hard and I’m thrilled with the win, it’s obviously a big two points for us.”
A scoreless battle ensued in the third period, and despite losing, coach Jerry York has a positive outlook for his club.
“I think from our perspective we started slow, and we got behind that first period 2-0,” he said. “But then I thought as the game went on we played much smarter and much better persistently during the last two thirds of the gamebut what is most important is that we are trying to watch the demeanor of our club. I thought we stayed right in there, and it was very positive on the bench; that’s a key thing for me to be aware of, that gives us a chance to get back in the game.”
If BC (13-11-5, 8-9-5 ) listens to their coach, they’ll have a second chance to gain some points this weekend as they host UNH Saturday night at Kelley Rink.