DURHAM, N.H. – When the Northeastern Huskies (18-13-4) fell behind 4-2 to New Hampshire (20-16-1) with less than four minutes to go in the second period, the Huskies faithful were bracing themselves for another disappointing year.
That’s where this story begins.
New Hampshire took a 1-0 lead 11:35 into the game on a Grayson Downing shot from the blue line that snuck past the blocker of Huskies netminder Clay Witt.
Less than three minutes later, Ryan Belonger answered for the Huskies in what was a common theme for Northeastern, jamming away at the puck in the crease to score goals. The call, like virtually every Northeastern goal in the game, was reviewed, but the call stood.
With just 1:33 left in the first, Kevin Goumas had the puck behind Clay Witt before dishing it right in the crease to Nick Sorkin, who knocked it home for his 19th goal of the year and send the Wildcats into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead.
The Huskies, after killing of a five-on-three to begin the second period, got a turnover just as Matt Benning was getting out of the box. He received a pass across the ice for a wide-open breakaway before being taken down in what was called a penalty shot. Benning, who was shaken up on the play, was replaced by Kevin Roy, who buried the penalty shot after fooling Wildcats goalie Casey DeSmith.
New Hampshire added two goals just minutes apart in the middle of the second period. The first was by Tyler Kelleher, who put a snipe behind Clay Witt. The Wildcats made it 4-2 when Justin Agosta shot through traffic and into the back of the net.
The Huskies fought back in the second period, as 16:29 into the frame Colton Saucerman jammed away at a Mike McMurtry shot to cut the lead to 4-3. With just seven seconds left in the period, Kevin Roy slipped one under the pads of DeSmith after also crashing the net hard.
The third period was dominated by Northeastern, but they were not able to score, sending the game to overtime.
Both squads came out firing in the extra frame, with Mike Szmatula scoring the winning goal for Northeastern after once again crashing the net and jamming away at the puck until it finally got past DeSmith.
Clay Witt finished the game with 31 saves for Northeastern, while DeSmith ended the game with 28 of his own.
These two teams will meet again Sunday at 4:30 in a decisive Game 3, with the winner advancing to the TD Garden for the semifinals.
New Hampshire coach Dick Umile was disappointed with his team forfeiting a two-goal lead.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that we gave it up; give them credit they battled back, but I think a turning point in the game obviously was the five-on-three,” Umile said. “We had many chances to put it away and didn’t.”
Huskies coach Jim Madigan on the other hand, was very pleased with his team’s resiliency battling back in what is one of the toughest environments in college hockey.
“I like the way we came back,” Madigan said. “We showed a lot of resiliency down 4-2 to a very good team and found a way to tie it. Thought we had the game-winner there at the 10-minute mark and we still battled back and guys played hard and played smart.”
Tomorrow’s deciding Game 3 will be the fifth meeting between the two teams this year, with New Hampshire holding a 3-1 lead in the season series.