MANCHESTER, N.H. — Although New Hampshire played a good ways south of the White Mountains while hosting this Northeast Regional, the Wildcats certainly reached a peak Saturday.
The Wildcats picked the right time to play their best game of the season, ousting top-seeded Miami with a 3-1 victory in front of 7,608 at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The win ended a nation’s best 14-game unbeaten streak for the RedHawks.
After yielding a goal just 53 seconds into the game, UNH never gave up another. Hobey Baker hopeful Paul Thompson was held scoreless, but Kevin Goumas scored twice for the victors. Matt DiGirolamo made 21 saves.
Miami goalie Cody Reichard played well in a losing effort, making 24 saves. Bryan Paulazzo scored the lone goal for Miami.
“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “We had a major challenge, but I was really proud of the way the team played. We played as well as we have all season from start to finish.”
It was a bitter loss for the RedHawks, who had been on a tear.
“We’ve been playing on such a high for so long,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Tonight wasn’t our night, and I’ll take the blame for that. That’s on me, the head coach. We weren’t ready to play. But let’s not take anything away from this senior class.”
The Miami seniors included Hobey Baker finalists Carter Camper and Andy Miele as well as Pat Cannone, Justin Vaive, and Joe Hartman, who saw their careers end with 108 wins and four NCAA tournament appearances as well as a heartbreaking loss in the 2009 national championship game to Boston University.
“It stings because of these seniors,” Blasi said. “Obviously, there’s only one team that can say that they won their last game, but two Frozen Fours, a regular season championship, a playoff championship, an overtime loss in a regional championship, an overtime loss in a national championship.
“Other than BC, I’m not sure if a senior class has a better record. It stings.”
The game got off to a wild start. Just 53 seconds into the first period, Miami took the lead. Camper got the puck along the left-wing boards and centered it to Paulazzo in the slot. DiGirolamo made the initial save, but the freshman left wing buried the rebound stick side for his fourth collegiate goal.
UNH tied it exactly one minute later. Matt Campanale took a shot from the left point, and Reichard kicked the rebound away to the right-wing side. Freshman Kevin Goumas picked up the rebound from a sharp angle and deposited it in the net.
The Wildcats fans in attendance thought that their team had a lead at 6:29, only to have the goal waved off following video review. Thompson carried the puck behind the net and then threw it toward traffic near the crease. It went off the skate of a UNH player and in, and the review showed a kicking motion.
Later in the period, Stevie Moses had a great chance from 15 feet for UNH, only to have Reichard make the big save. The teams buckled down defensively after that, and the rest of the period went by with few real scoring chances.
The score didn’t change in the second stanza, which featured relatively few opportunities. At 4:40, Mike Sislo had a breakaway for the Wildcats, but Reichard made the pad save. UNH had a few power plays but did little with them, as Miele looked good ragging the puck at times.
Eventually, UNH got momentum. Phil DeSimone was denied on a rebound at 12:40, and then Moses suddenly found himself alone with the netminder at 17:50, only to have Reichard make the big save. So they went into the third with a 1-1 score.
UNH took its first lead of the game just 39 seconds into the third on a beautiful play. From the right-wing side, Blake Kessel threaded a beautiful pass to Sislo for the tap-in at the far post.
“It was a great pass,” Sislo said. “That’s the kind of play you dream about as a forward, to have a defenseman find you like that at the back door.”
Then Thompson had a great chance three minutes later: Reichard had left most of the net open, but the New Hampshire native shot it off the leg of Miami’s Alden Hirschfeld.
Miami had a great chance to tie it halfway through the period. On a rebound, Paulazzo rifled one off the crossbar from low in the right-wing circle. Then, on a power play, Miami had another good chance at 13:00. Cameron Schilling almost handcuffed DiGirolamo with a slap shot, and then Camper gave the UNH goalie more trouble on the rebound. Schilling blasted another slapper at 15:35, but DiGirolamo split and snared it with a glove.
Miami couldn’t crack the UNH defense, though, and the Wildcats (22-10-6) advanced.
“We just played well all night,” Umile said. “They’re a very talented team, and we didn’t give them a lot of space.”
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in here,” Reichard said. “They had the home crowd. We got the early goal, but they got it right back.”
For Miami (23-10-6), Camper recalled what former teammate Ryan Jones said to him after Jones’ career ended when Camper was a freshman.
“Jonesy said he knew we’d get to the Frozen Four, and he knew we’d win a national championship,” Camper said. “We did get to the Frozen Four twice. Miami’s going to win one some day, I know that.”
Meanwhile, Sislo and UNH prepare to meet Merrimack or Notre Dame.
“We’re focused on one thing [a national championship] and we’re onto the next step,” Sislo said. “We’re excited to see who we’ll play tomorrow. We worked hard and are ready for the same tomorrow.”