BOSTON — When New Hampshire last played Boston University, the Wildcats had a tough 60 minutes, losing 5-0.
Tonight it came down to one bad stretch in just 36 seconds. Through the first 47 minutes, the teams fought through a tightly-played defensive battle and were at a 1-1 impasse. Then BU scored twice in 36 seconds, and the game was basically over.
The No. 16 Terriers tacked on an empty-net goal to make it a 4-1 final in front of 4,994 at Agganis Arena, snapping a six-game unbeaten stream for the Wildcats while increasing their own winning streak to a season-high three games. Returning from a one-game suspension for skipping classes, Kieran Millan stopped 33 of 34 UNH shots and made 22 saves in the third period alone. Trevor van Riemsdyk scored the lone goal for UNH.
“I thought we were pretty thorough tonight, and I liked how hard we played from beginning to end,” Terriers coach Jack Parker said. “The score was not indicative of the game. It was a really close game. Kieran made some big saves, and they had some really good chances, especially in the third period. They kept on coming, and we came up with some big defensive plays.”
UNH coach Dick Umile was frustrated by his team’s third-period lapse.
“It was a good hockey game. We battled back, got it tied up, and then I was very disappointed with how we handled it, especially on the third goal. We gave it away after we tied it up.”
BU played extremely stingy defense through the first two periods, allowing just 11 shots on goal. Scoring chances were hard to come by for both teams. BU had two legitimate scoring opportunities in the first period, with Matt Nieto factoring in both of them, while UNH didn’t have any.
Things opened up somewhat in the second period, but the scoring chances were still only about 3-1 for BU. The Terriers did net the first goal at 8:25. Freshman Evan Rodrigues intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and circled around before bouncing a pass off the boards near the UNH bench. Winger Wade Megan got the puck going into the UNH zone along the left-wing boards, but he was on the far side of the faceoff circle when he fired a bad angle shot.
“Zero-zero game, a lot of times the first goal is on a shot that’s something like that,” Megan said. “I figured I’d get the puck on the net, see if I could sneak one past like I did or maybe leave it there for a rebound. No shot’s a bad shot in a game like that.”
The Wildcats came to life in the third period, outshooting BU by a 10-1 margin in the early going. van Riemsdyk finally tied it up at 5:05 on a shot through traffic from the right point. It was his first collegiate goal. Amazingly, BU has now given up 25 goals in Hockey East action this season; 13 of them have represented an opponent’s first collegiate goal.
“It definitely was a huge thrill, and we had the momentum going there,” van Riemsdyk said. “It looked like we might maybe pull out a victory, but it really went from joy to being quickly turned around.”
The goal also ended a BU shutout streak against UNH that dated back to January 22, a span of 140:05. It also ended Millan’s shutout streak of 105:05 dating back to the overtime goal he gave up to Merrimack last Friday.
Just when it seemed UNH had the momentum, lightning struck twice for BU. At 7:29, Max Nicastro’s shot from the left point went through traffic to beat Matt Di Girolamo. Seconds later, Chris Connolly raced in on the right wing and crossed it to Corey Trivino crashing the net. The puck went off his skate and in. A video review led to the ruling that he had not redirected the puck in intentionally.
UNH got several more good shots as the period wore on, but Nieto clinched it with what may have been the longest empty-net goal seen at Agganis to date. From between the two face-off circles in his own end, he spun wildly to clear the puck, and it went all the way down and into the net.
New Hampshire (5-5-2, 4-4-1) plays at Harvard Tuesday night, while BU (6-4-1, 5-3-1) plays Cornell at Madison Square Garden on Saturday in the biannual Red Hot Hockey game.