DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire forwards Dalton Speelman and Paul Thompson scored goals 12 seconds apart late in the third period before co-captain Peter LeBlanc added an empty-netter to edge the Northeastern Huskies, 3-1, and move one step closer to their third Hockey East regular season title in four years in front of a sold-out crowd at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. on Saturday night.
“It’s a crazy game sometimes, but I’ll take it,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said. “You can’t score if you don’t throw it to the net. It’s part of the game.”
The upset-minded Huskies led 1-0 and outplayed New Hampshire for the majority of the game, but the Wildcats stole the game with two soft goals with less than five minutes remaining in the third period.
“It’s a sad way to finish a game; I thought we played a terrific hockey game for 55 minutes,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said.
The win only adds to the Huskies’ pain after the previous night, when they allowed New Hampshire to score in the final minute at home and escape with a tie.
Speelman scored after he pounced on a loose puck in front of the net, slapped a shot off the right post and then sent the rebound into a wide-open net after Huskies’ goalie Chris Rawlings gave up on the play, thinking Speelman had scored on his initial shot.
“We set up in one of our set plays off the draw and it came right to me, I shot it on net and hit the post, and I don’t how I ended up wide open but somehow I did and put the rebound in,” Speelman said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Thompson scored immediately afterward and sent the Wildcats fans into a frenzy. He circled around the net and sent a slow backhand shot along the ice that ricocheted off a Northeastern defenseman’s skate and slipped through Rawlings’ legs for the 2-1 lead.
“It was a bad goal,” Cronin said. “It was an unlucky goal. Lucky for them, unlucky for us.”
Northeastern came out firing, as senior Kyle Kraemer scored a quick goal only 38 seconds after the opening faceoff and the Huskies peppered Wildcats’ goalie Brian Foster with 13 shots, compared to only six for New Hampshire in the first period.
Kraemer caught a pass from teammate Justin Daniels in the middle of the offensive zone and fired a shot from the slot through a screen that beat Foster high on the glove side. The early goal immediately put the Wildcats on their heels, as Northeastern dominated play for the rest of the period.
The Huskies kept the pressure on Foster and the Wildcats with eight more shots to New Hampshire’s five in the second period, but neither team could capitalize on their chances, including multiple power play opportunities, and the score remained 1-0 after 40 minutes.
“Every team in our league is a good team,” Thompson said. “Top to bottom, there’s a lot of depth in the league and every weekend is going to be a battle. [Boston College] is going to be huge next weekend for the regular season.”
The win boosts New Hampshire’s record to 16-10-6 (15-5-5 in Hockey East play) and drops Northeastern to 16-14-2 (11-11-2). The Wildcats will only need one point out of their home-and-home series with Boston College next weekend to clinch the conference title, but the Eagles could steal the crown with a sweep.
Northeastern will start a home-and-home series at Boston University on Friday night.