DURHAM, N.H. — A tie never felt so good.
New Hampshire stormed all the way back from a three goal deficit in the third period to tie No. 5 Boston College, 3-3, and claim the Hockey East regular season title outright in front of their home crowd at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. on Friday night.
I dont know what to say to be honest with you; things werent looking good in the second periodbut we played a solid third period and this team just finds ways to battle back, New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile said.
The Wildcats came back to tie the game with three third period goals, capped off by sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel who tied the game with a rocket from the point that rang off the crossbar and dropped in for a power-play goal at 16:05 of the third period.
I had the open lane and stepped out to the middle, [Paul] Thompson had a great screen and I got it off quick and it found its way in somehow, Kessel said.
Freshman forward John Henrion scored to cut the Eagles lead to 3-1 less than two minutes into the third period and sophomore forward Kevin McCarey cut the Boston College lead to 3-2 with a goal at 8:33. Henrion scored with a quick wrist shot right off the faceoff and McCarey stuffed a rebound through freshman goalie Parker Milner.
I think the faceoff play, Henrions goal, was huge, Umile said. It got some momentum going, got the place moving, and I think from that point on we played pretty well.
Boston College head coach Jerry York agreed.
The faceoff goal early in the third period was a momentum changer, York said. Thats something we spend a lot of time on, faceoffs, but we just lost the draw clean there and the kid had a good shot off the triangle set.
With the win, New Hampshire improves their record to 16-10-7 (15-5-6 in Hockey East play) and Boston College falls to 20-10-3 (15-8-3).
The two teams wrap up the regular season with a rematch tomorrow night at Boston College, and even though the game wont count for much in the Hockey East standings, it will be huge in the PairWise rankings and could have implications in the NCAA tournament selection process.
Its a huge two points tomorrow for the NCAA tournament, Wildcats forward Phil DeSimone said. Were definitely not done yet; were kind of just starting.
Boston College forward Chris Kreider opened the scoring at 12:26 of the first period when he capitalized on a rebound after teammate Ben Smith took the puck wide of the net and drew New Hampshire goaltender Brian Foster out of his crease. Foster made an easy save on Smith but couldnt control the rebound and Kreider put the Eagles up 1-0. The play was reviewed, but the call was upheld.
The referees called for another long review to approve Boston Colleges second goal.
When the Eagles scored on a rocket one-timer from senior forward Matt Lombardi at 4:15 of the second period, one referee blew his whistle right as Lombardi released the shot due to a delayed penalty on Wildcats forward Paul Thompson.
It was unclear why the referee had blown the play dead, since no New Hampshire played had touched the puck, but the officials cleared up the confusion and determined that Lombardi had scored to give his Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Sophomore defenseman Tommy Cross added another goal from the point a few minutes later to put Boston College up 3-0, and the tense New Hampshire crowd fell silent.
I thought our team played extremely well for 55 of the 65 minutes that we played, York said. But I thought we got back on our heels for about 10 or 12 minutes of the third period, starting right with the faceoff goal. We rallied and came back pretty hard, I thought, late in the game and in the OT, but we just absolutely stopped skating and started watching the Wildcats.
Tomorrow nights rematch at Conte Forum in Chesnutt Hill, Mass. starts at 7 p.m.