DURHAM, N.H. — For much of Saturday’s game between No. 3 Boston College and No. 4 New Hampshire, penalties threatened to derail the visiting Eagles.
With five minutes left in regulation, they finally did.
Just 13 seconds into their seventh power play of the night – which included a five-minute major and a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage – the Wildcats finally struck gold as John Henrion buried his seventh goal of the season to break a 1-1 deadlock with 15:12 to play.
From there, UNH held off the potent Eagles offense with blocked shots, deflected passes – and even a whacky ‘almost penalty shot’ for the Eagles – to earn the 2-1 victory in front of 6,501 at the Whittemore Center.
The whacky part of the ending occurred with 1:55 remaining. After Kevin Hayes broke his stick on a one-timer in the slot, the puck trickled towards the UNH net and through goaltender Casey DeSmith. Wildcats’ forward Kevin Goumas attempted to keep the puck out of the net with his hand, pushing it to the side of the net.
Referee Jeff Bunyon immediately signaled for a penalty shot.
“I said, ‘Here we go,’” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “I’m thinking, ‘This is unbelievable. We’re going to have a penalty shot.’”
While Umile was stressing, the referees were converging.
After lengthy discussion with his partner, Scott Hansen, Bunyon overruled himself, canceling the penalty shot, ultimately ruling that the UNH player never covered the puck in the crease, instead he only batted the puck away.
“They said they collaborated on it,” said BC associate coach Mike Cavanaugh. “The original call was a penalty shot, but then they collaborated.”
The Eagles kept pressure on for the remainder, but DeSmith (22 saves) and his defense stood tall.
The victory earns the Wildcats (14-4-2, 9-3-1 Hockey East) a weekend series split with the Eagles and catapults them past an idle Boston University team, back into second-place in Hockey East. Boston College (13-4-2, 10-3-1 Hockey East) remains on top of the division, two points ahead of the Wildcats and three ahead of the Terriers.
“It was an important game for us to come back after [Friday] night,” said Umile. “I liked the pace of the game right from the beginning.”
After a scoreless, but spirited first period, New Hampshire gained momentum through a parade of Eagles to the penalty box.
Colin Sullivan started things at 7:09 with a hooking penalty. At 11:12, Mike Matheson was called for hitting from behind. As his penalty expired and he stepped back to the ice, the rookie blindsided a Wildcat player and was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head. And during that power play, Kevin Hayes was called for crosschecking, giving the Wildcats a full two-minute of five-on-three.
Through all of that time with the man advantage, UNH generated 13 shots on goal, but couldn’t score. And as the second ticked away in the period, it appeared the Eagles might get the much-needed rest of the intermission.
“We had [the puck] in [the zone],” said Umile. “We just didn’t get the looks.”
Responding to the failed power plays, UNH’s energy line of Dan Correale, Jay Camper and Matt Willows, which had factored in five goals since being put together three games ago, struck for No. 6.
Willows found open space in front of BC netminder Parker Milner (37 saves) taking a Correale pass. Displaying ultimate patience, he held the puck waiting for Milner to get out of position and fired a shot inside the left post with 46.3 seconds remaining in the second to break the scoreless deadlock.
In the third, the Eagles stormed the UNH zone and finally broke through on a miscue by the Wildcats.
Correale attempted to reverse a puck in the defensive zone, but instead one-touched it to an empty slot where Brooke Dyroff blasted his first career goal past DeSmith with 12:03 remaining.
That, though, was all BC could muster and once the Wildcats finally broke through on the power play, UNH had all the offensive it would need.
“I thought New Hampshire played extremely well,” said Cavanaugh. “They were playing with purpose tonight.”