DURHAM, N.H. — The lead stories had all been written. Boston College’s three power-play goals in the first period had salted away a lopsided win in what had originally promised to be a NESN marquee matchup.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a blowout. New Hampshire rallied from a 4-1 third period deficit to send the game into overtime on a Bobby Butler goal with 53 seconds remaining in regulation. In the final minute of OT, Wildcat Peter Leblanc almost tallied the game winner.
Mike Sislo, Paul Thompson, and Butler each scored in the third period for UNH while Brian Foster made numerous timely saves, especially on a BC power play in which a defender lost his stick, allowing BC to stay within the zone for virtually the entire two minutes.
An Eagle goal there would have salted the game away while giving them a perfect 5-for-5 night on the man advantage.
“I don’t know if we killed it or Brian stole it,” UNH coach Dick Umile said.
Since the Wildcats were coming off a two game drubbing at Wisconsin, losing by a combined 10-2 score, BC’s three first period power-play goals made it look like there’d be a third straight shellacking.
“It was different,” Umile said. “Five-on-five at Wisconsin we couldn’t get out of our own end. They dominated us in our own end. Tonight it was the power play. [BC] moved the puck very, very well on the power play. The shots came from outside [and they scored] on screens and tips, but they controlled the puck in the zone very well. So it was a different scenario but it obviously wasn’t great to be behind 4-1 but we battled.”
Indeed they did.
The Wildcats, who travel to Lowell on Sunday, remain undefeated (2-0-1) in Hockey East, while moving to 2-4-2 overall.
“It was a good character game for us,” Leblanc said. “It’s a better feeling when you come back from 4-1 than the other way around.
“When we played against Miami, We scored five goals in 10 minutes so we’re obviously an explosive offensive club, but we have to find a way to do that for 60 minutes and not come from behind.”
Though they could have come away with nothing, the Eagles felt as though they’d let an important point slip away.
“Dick really rallied his troops,” BC coach Jerry York said. “They came back very strong to catch us. We had a good lead and were playing very well, but we got tentative in the third period and Foster made some outstanding saves.
“We take the point and get on the bus and go back home, thinking we should have had two points. But the Wildcats came back real hard, had a great rally, and deserved the point. But in our locker room, we felt we let one slip away.”
Boston College (2-2-1 overall, 1-2-1 in Hockey East) hosts Northeastern on Saturday.
After an up-and-down opening few minutes that appeared poised to deliver on the game’s promise, BC threatened to break the game open with three power-play goals in little more than six minutes. The three strikes, two by Carl Sneep and one by Tommy Cross, all came from the middle point, putting UNH on the precipice at 14:38.
Foster put his team in position to make a comeback, making some big stops early in the second period, and Leblanc responded at 4:47 on a rebound of his own shot.
UNH went on the power play almost immediately after the goal, but couldn’t take advantage of its first golden opportunity to make it a one goal game. The second came at the 10-minute mark when Butler picked the pocket of a BC defenseman and broke in all alone, but Muse foiled the senior.
The save proved critical when the Eagles put in their fourth power-play goal at 13:31. Leading scorer Brian Gibbons cruised in and passed left-to-right across the goalmouth to Ben Smith where the senior stuffed it in.
UNH, however, refused to fold. Sislo narrowed the gap at 4:16 of the third, converting from the slot. Then, following a dominating BC power play that could not beat Foster, UNH finally made it a one-goal game on a Leblanc goal off a scramble in front.
Butler scored the game-tying goal on what arguably was a bad rebound allowed by BC goaltender John Muse, who was forced to make three big stops in overtime to save the remaining point for BC.