DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire rallied from a 5-3 deficit with less than two minutes remaining, scoring twice in the span of 11 seconds to tie Brown 5-5 on Tuesday.
UNH coach Dick Umile pulled goaltender Matt DiGirolamo with 2:33 remaining and Blake Kessel responded with an extra-attacker goal. Back at even strength, Mike Borisenok tied it to send the game into overtime.
The dramatic comeback came after the sixth-ranked Wildcats dug themselves a hole with abysmal defensive play that Brown capitalized on. It marked UNH’s second straight poor defensive showing, coming on the heels of a 4-2 loss to Boston University.
“We were fortunate to pull out the tie,” Umile said. “The only positive thing we did tonight was find a way not to lose the game. We gave them breakaways and they put it away every time they had the opportunity.
“We didn’t have our heads in the game. All of a sudden people were going by us on breakaways. We’ve done that the last two games. We were just letting people go. We just let them get behind us.”
As much as UNH considered the game close to a loss because of its poor defensive play, Brown came away with a similar feeling considering how close it had come to pulling off the road upset.
“It’s inexcusable with a 5-3 lead to give up that lead,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “We’ve got some young guys and unfortunately we made some mistakes at the end there.”
Playing nine freshmen, Whittet saw positives but would have considered a win to be his desired building block.
“We played with a lot of energy, we played with a lot of passion, we played with a lot of pride,” he said. “[But] if we really wanted to build on [this game], we would have stepped out of the building with a 5-3 win.”
The Wildcats opened the game well, outshooting Brown, 10-6, in the opening period while grabbing a 1-0 lead when Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo got behind the Bears defense. From the left wing, Thompson fed Sislo perfectly on the far post for the easy tap-in.
The second period, however, proved a different story as numerous defensive breakdowns plagued UNH and Brown took advantage, scoring three times in the first five minutes and finishing the period up 4-2.
Chris Zaires got it started, taking a pass in the low slot from Harry Zolnierczyk, spinning and firing the puck into the net.
Bobby Farnham made it a 2-1 just after a UNH power play expired, collecting the puck in the neutral zone on the right side and taking off on a breakaway.
Less than a minute later, Brown goaltender Mike Clemente robbed Austin Block and on the transition Zolnierczyk beat DiGirolamo to make it 3-1.
The Wildcats crept back into the game at 14:46 on a Brett Kostolansky shot from the point off a Phil DeSimone pass from behind the net.
Brown then retook the two-goal lead two minutes later on a strong effort by Jack Maclellan. He shot, put his own rebound back on net, and then passed from behind the net to defenseman Jeremy Russell, who had dropped down from the point and buried the puck.
Down 4-2 entering the third period, UNH desperately needed the first goal, the earlier the better. It got just that off the stick of Sislo.
On the power play at 4:39, Sislo cut left-to-right through the high slot, fought off a defender, and sniped top shelf to make it 4-3.
Zolnierczyk responded with his second goal of the night, however, getting the potential back-breaker at 9:34, on a shot from the right faceoff dot.
It looked like a second straight loss for UNH and a third straight win for Brown when Umile called a timeout with 2:33 remaining and pulled DiGirolamo for an extra attacker.
The Wildcats worked the puck around the offensive end until they got it to Kessel on the left point. Kessel showed why he’s one of the East’s top offensive defensemen, booming a shot past Clemente with 1:53 remaining.
Just 11 seconds later, the goaltender roamed behind his own net and Borisenok stuffed the puck in at the post before Clemente could completely recover.
Brown outshot New Hampshire 4-2 in the overtime but neither team could score the winner.