Nothing solved as UNH and BC battle to 4-4 tie
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – There was no disappointment, no frustration, no sense of regret over a missed opportunity. Not this time.
It’s not that the road for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team got any easier. Hockey East is as competitive as ever, and a 4-4 tie against Boston College made it four straight games without a win for UNH.
But the Wildcats had to work for this one. They had to fight for three periods, and a few minutes more. And while Coach Dick Umile was able to admit that his team was going through a rough stretch, he was just as ready to point to the crucial point earned at Conte Forum as a stepping stone going forward.
“I liked the way they competed tonight,” he said. “I told them, we’ve been through a little bit of a funk here, but I think this game will hopefully propel us where we want to go.”
A stretch of four losses in seven games put No. 5 UNH (16-8-4, 11-7-3) right in the thick of a six-team battle for conference positioning, and the Wildcats faced the difficult task of righting the ship against the fourth-ranked Eagles (17-8-3, 12-7-2), whom they had been chasing all year and who had walloped them, 5-2, in their last visit to Chestnut Hill.
UNH’s latest attempt at a jump-start appeared ready to follow disappointing losses to Merrimack and Providence when BC took a 3-2 lead into the third, but the Wildcats offense, which had produced only four goals in its past three games, snapped back to form. Grayson Downing scored only 1:15 into the third when he picked up the rebound of an Austin Block shot, wrapped around the net and stuffed the puck past an out-of-place Parker Milner, tying the game at 3.
“I guess you could say lucky bounces went our way,” Downing said. “It was nice to get that advantage. It’s been a while; we haven’t been getting it recently.”
UNH struck again in similar fashion with 12:06 to go, as Brett Pesce ripped a shot from the point that sailed by the net, but Matt Willows was able to gather the puck off the boards and again jam it by Milner for the go-ahead goal. The joy was short-lived, as BC won the ensuing faceoff and Bill Arnold took the puck down and tied the game only seven seconds later.
Arnold’s goal marked the transition to a game of survival for the Wildcats. BC fought hard for the go-ahead goal, even getting to put its power play (which had scored twice already) on the ice for the final 1:44 of regulation, but UNH’s penalty kill, the No. 1 unit in the country, held firm.
“(That was) a huge one at the end,” Umile said. “The guys did a great job on that. … We didn’t give any look on the power play there at the end.”
BC struck first on a goal by Steven Whitney less than nine minutes into the game, but UNH responded by taking a 2-1 lead. Eric Knodel tied it when he put a shot on goal from just in front of center ice and the puck somehow slipped through Milner with 59.8 seconds left in the first, and Dan Correale put the Wildcats ahead when he beat Patrick Wey in a race to the puck down the left side, and his centering pass went off a BC skate and into the net 34 seconds into the second period.
“Guys took the puck, took shots, got it to the net and good things happen when you do that,” Umile said.
BC went up 3-2 on a pair of power-play tallies, as Michael Matheson scored on a crossing pass from Johnny Gaudreau with 14:30 left in the second, and Pat Mullane knocked home a rebound of an Isaac MacLeod shot with 4:17 left.
Casey DeSmith made 22 saves for the Wildcats, while Milner made 29 for the Eagles, coming up strong as UNH applied pressure throughout the final minute of overtime.
(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dbonifant.)