DURHAM, N.H. — Saturday night’s battle between the top-ranked Miami RedHawks and the University of New Hampshire Wildcats at the Whittemore Center in Durham felt more like a mid-February matchup than an October meeting.
In what was a complete turnaround from a defensive struggle to an offensive explosion between periods, the RedHawks and Wildcats skated to a 5-5 overtime tie before a crowd of 5,913.
Miami head coach Enrico Blasi’s unit, who came into Durham and won Friday night 6-3, said that he thought everyone in the building got their money’s worth after the battle tonight.
“10 goals, opportunities on both sides, some good goaltending at times, and I think even the coaches got a workout tonight,” Blasi said. “You’ve got two good teams going at it, so it felt like January or February. When you schedule games against great teams and great programs like UNH, you know your team’s going to get better.”
The first period began the same way Miami had left off the previous night. Just 1:52 into the game, Miami sophomore Matt Tomassoni rifled a slap shot from just inside the UNH blue line. The shot kicked off of Paul Thompson, a diving Wildcat, and deflected past senior goalie Brian Foster, giving the RedHawks a 1-0 lead early.
The first period was penalty-plagued, as seven different players were sent to the box for minor infringements. Neither team was able to capitalize on any of the man advantages.
However, Miami looked as though they had taken a 2-0 lead when the puck found the back of the net just minutes after netting their first goal. After a referee review however, it was determined that the puck had been deflected in by the skate of a RedHawk player, negating the goal and keeping the score 1-0 in Miami’s favor.
“[Their first goal] was disappointing,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “But hey, we scored the first goal last night and lost, so when they got the first goal I thought maybe we’ll battle back. When they got the second one that was called back I wasn’t feeling too good, I can tell you.”
In the second period, both teams came out firing in what can best be described as nothing short of a classic shootout. Nine total shots found their way into the back of the net in the period.
New Hampshire got the ball rolling when senior captain Bobby Butler netted the equalizer just 2:10 into the period, with assists from fellow senior captain Peter LeBlanc and sophomore Steve Moses.
Within the next 10 minutes, six more goals were scored, four for the Wildcats and two for Miami.
The RedHawks answered Butler’s goal 46 seconds later when freshman Curtis McKenzie received a pass from senior Jarod Palmer and put the puck past Foster, reclaiming the lead at 2-1.
Only 12 seconds after Miami went ahead, UNH senior defenseman Nick Krates knotted the score up on a wrist shot from the circle to the left of sophomore goaltender Connor Knapp, who got the starting nod in tonight’s contest. Krates’ goal came 3:08 into the second period.
New Hampshire jumped out in front of the RedHawks 5-3, courtesy of five-on-three and five-on-four power play advantages. Knapp was replaced by fellow sophomore Cody Reichard after New Hampshire’s fifth goal.
By the time the period drew to a close, Miami had tied the score up at five each, with goals from seniors Andy Miele and Pat Cannone.
Cannone, who grew up in Bayport, New York, had several family members and friends in attendance at tonight’s game.
“A couple buddies of mine drove up from New York, so it was pretty good support to see them here,” Cannone said. “They’re my hometown buddies from Long Island. They’re great guys and give great support.”
Cannone also said that it was a hard-fought game in which the RedHawks made good use of some opportunities and battled back to tie it up.
The third period looked very similar to the first: a defensive battle that saw several shots miss by inches, and great saves by both goaltenders to seal an overtime bout.
In the end, neither team could net a game-winner, and the contest ended in a 5-5 tie.
After the game, sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel, who had two goals on the night, said that despite some sloppy play, the Wildcats were excited about getting their first point.
“Obviously the five goals in 10 minutes was a boost,” Kessel said. “We can’t really be disappointed with a tie against the No. 1 team, but we think we could’ve snuck away with a win tonight.”
Both teams return to action on Friday, Oct. 23, as the RedHawks battle the Spartans of Michigan State at home in Oxford, and the Wildcats take on the Northeastern Huskies in Durham. Game times are scheduled for 7 p.m.