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Power finally comes back on for UNH in 2-1 win over BC

DURHAM – The power play felt like an advantage in name only. With just more than five minutes left and the UNH men’s hockey team deadlocked at 1 with Boston College, the Wildcats drew a tripping call, earned a power play and went to work on what had been the most frustrating part of their night.

UNH took the ice with more than 11 minutes of power play time already burned up. Five of those minutes came in a row due to a game misconduct, a stretch that also featured two minutes of a two-man advantage. It had been a series of golden chances, one after another. Each time, UNH came away disappointed.

As the Wildcats showed, however, one chance is all that’s needed to make up for several missed ones. And the power play wasted no time making amends, as John Henrion knocked in a rebound with 4:48 remaining to lift No. 4 UNH to a badly-needed 2-1 victory over the
No. 2 Eagles last night at the Whittemore Center.

“It was a great game, it was an important win for us, to come back after last night,” said Coach Dick Umile, whose team rebounded from a 5-2 loss to the Eagles to improve to 14-4-2 (9-3-1 in Hockey East). “I was really pleased with the overall performance and the way that we competed.”

The Wildcats’ effort was there, but special teams were threatening to spoil it. The game was tied at zero when UNH was gift-wrapped a chance to strike against its Hockey East rival, as Michael Matheson drew a game misconduct for a hit to Kevin Goumas’s head and a penalty to Kevin Hayes 2:28 later for cross-checking meant the Wildcats got to play a full two minutes of the misconduct time with a 5-on-3 advantage.

Despite peppering Eagles goalie Parker Milner with shots (UNH finished with a 39-23 advantage), nothing went through, and Henrion knew the power-play unit needed to find an answer when it went out for the last time in the third after the Eagles (13-4-2, 10-3-1) tripped Austin Block on a rush to the net.

“There was a lot of urgency,” he said. “We knew that this was a big chance, could have been a huge turning point, as it was, in the game.”

The sixth time was the charm. UNH won the faceoff and the puck went back to Justin Agosta, who one-timed a shot from the point toward the net. The puck bounced straight to Henrion, and the senior put it past Milner for the winning goal.

“Good thing we made up (on) that one,” Henrion said. “We had a bunch of chances on the power play. … We just couldn’t bury it. To get one on the power play made it even better.”

Agonizing as the missed chances were, UNH seemed on its way to overcoming them when it took a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the second period. Playing on the shift immediately following the end of the five-minute major, Dan Correale got the puck and sprinted down the right side, getting past a BC defenseman and taking a 2-on-1 rush into the Eagles zone.

Correale sent the puck in to Matt Willows, who was flying up the slot and took it up to the net. He paused on the shot, taking it across the crease before shooting it over Milner’s shoulder for the goal with 46.3 seconds left.

It was the first career goal for the junior, who said the team kept its focus after missing out on the power play.

“There was a little frustration,” he said, “but you’ve just got to move on and get a goal.”

Willows and Correale have been part of a productive third line for UNH, but that line was also responsible for BC’s tying goal. Correale had the puck deep in his team’s zone and tried to pass it off the boards to Jay Camper, but the puck instead slid right into the slot, leaving BC’s Brooks Dyroff wide open for a shot and score with 12:03 left in the game.

The setback was only a temporary one, thanks to Henrion’s goal and a much tighter defense. After allowing five goals the night before, Casey DeSmith (22 saves) and the Wildcats held on for a victory that puts UNH back at second in Hockey East and prevents it from falling six points behind BC.

Just as importantly, it showed the return to form the Wildcats were eager to achieve.

“It was a very sour taste in the locker room (Friday). We haven’t played like that in a while,” Henrion said. “This one was even a little bit personal. Everyone came to the rink and was really ready to go.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or abonifant@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @dbonifant.)

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