New Hampshire was able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to Boston University in the opening six minutes of play and went on to win a 7-4 decision on the strength of two goals by freshman Trevor Smith and a penalty shot scored by Josh Ciocco.
“I had no clue what I was going to do,” said Ciocco about the penalty shot. “I think if you were to ask coach (Dick Umile) for a list of twelve players to take a penalty shot, I’d be around ten or twelve.”
“He doesn’t give himself enough credit,” answered Umile. “He works hard and has been crucial in killing penalties for us, so to see him score a big goal in a situation like that is great.”
The loss for BU snapped an 11-game winning streak and moved the Wildcats within a point of the Terriers in the Hockey East conference standings, with a rematch for the two teams on tap for tomorrow night.
“We were not thorough out there, then we got less thorough,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We were not smart, and then we got less smart.”
After falling behind early, New Hampshire was able to score five unanswered goals in the second half of the game.
The deciding stretch came in the third period as the Wildcats scored three goals in a four minutes span: a four-on-four goal by Thomas Fortney that was a redirection on a shot from the point and drew UNH into a tie; a power-play tally from Jamie Fritsch that was the game winner; and the penalty-shot goal from Ciocco just past the right skate of BU netminder John Curry (22 saves) after he was hauled down in the crease by freshman defenseman Matt Gilroy.
An open-net goal by Brett Hemingway sealed the 7-4 final, which, coincidentally, was the same score of a New Hampshire win at Maine on February 4.
The game started well for Boston University. Riding high from a Beanpot title over rival BC on Monday night, the Terriers were able to apply pressure almost immediately and scored three times in the first 6:32 and outshooting their opponents six to nothing in that span.
“You are always worried how the players are going to react in a situation like that,” said Parker about the Beanpot win. “But I thought, since we were playing against UNH, we wouldn’t have that problem. They knew how big a game this is.
“I liked the first six minutes, and I think my team liked it too much. I think the worst thing that could have happened to us was getting up 3-0. They thought it was going to be easy.”
Terrier senior David Van der Gulik scored on a rebound of a Sean Sullivan shot to start the scoring just three minutes into the game. Defenseman Jekabs Redlihs got the second goal off the rebound of a Kenny Roche shot, and captain Brad Zancanaro got a clean shot past UNH goalie Kevin Regan (28 saves) to establish the three-goal cushion.
Just like that New Hampshire was facing a huge obstacle: clawing out of a three-goal hole on the road to a team with an 11-game winning streak.
“With an 11-game winning streak, we knew they were good. But after six minutes, we didn’t know they were that good,” said Ciocco. “They were ahead 3-0 and I was -2.”
But the tide started to turn when, just 22 seconds after the third BU goal, Smith got the first of his two goals on a rebound.
“The goal by Smith was absolutely huge,” said Umile. “It got us back into the game. BU had managed to take advantage of some poor coverage on our part, but with that goal we were still in it.”
Ciocco echoed that. “That was a huge goal. Smith has been playing well, and for a freshman to score two goals like that gave us a shot of energy.”
The goal seemed to shake the two teams’ defenses awake, as the goalies smothered the puck and offered fewer rebound chances, and each defensive squad did a more thorough job of clearing out the follow-up skaters on the initial rushes.
In the second period, the two teams traded power-play goals. On a UNH advantage that came about after Terrier Pete MacArthur elbowed Matt Fornataro into the BU bench, defenseman Brian Yandle found Daniel Winnik open on the left side of the net for the easy tap-in, which pulled the Wildcats within one goal.
The two goal lead was reestablished by BU on the power play as a scrum in front of the New Hampshire net squirted out past a diving Regan and onto the stick of Zancanaro, who scored his second goal of the night.
That led to the five-goal explosion for New Hampshire.
“I give a lot of credit to Kevin Regan,” said Umile, despite the goalie’s relatively poor numbers of four goals on 28 shots. “That’s a tough situation for a goalie to play in. But he kept his composure, made some good saves and kept us in the game.”
The two teams will travel to Durham for tomorrow night’s game, the last regular-season meeting between the two teams. New Hampshire leads the season series 2-0.