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Missed chances sink UNH hockey team in overtime, 3-2

DURHAM – In some ways, the second game of the weekend between the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team and Michigan was a replica of the first. Again, the Wildcats had trouble finishing off scoring opportunities. Again, the teams battled through a fast-paced, evenly played third period to, again, force overtime.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, there was one key difference. This time, there was a winner, as Michigan’s Derek DeBlois found Tyler Motte for a one-timer up near the net 1:37 into overtime to lift the Wolverines to a 3-2 victory.

“I told the team it’s disappointing, obviously, losing the game, and we had chances to finish the game,” said Coach Dick Umile, whose team fell to 1-2-1. “It was tough after the weekend, because I thought the team played hard all weekend, and we have one point to show for it.”

The No. 13 Wildcats certainly had the effort, battling to tie the game at 2 late in the second period on a Kevin Goumas power-play goal. Rather than Friday’s 60-minute effort, in which UNH never surrendered an easy scoring look for Michigan (3-0-1), the Wildcats seemed to pick their spots yesterday, looking outmatched for much of the second period before turning it on late in the period and into the third.

“Tonight, I thought we were a little more sluggish than last night,” junior defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “There’s no real reason for it. But I thought we battled back again and had a pretty solid third period. We had our chances at the end of the game, had a couple of good looks there.”

For the second straight night, however, trouble capitalizing on those looks told the story for the Wildcats offense. With approximately 6½ minutes left, Dalton Speelman raced up the slot to one-time a pass from behind the net, but the shot trickled wide. Two minutes later, Matt Willows had a puck deflect back to him in front of the net, but his backhand attempt went wide. In the final minute, Kyle Smith was on the doorstep when the puck came to him, but the Michigan defense knocked it safely away.

In overtime, those misses proved costly, as JT Compher had the puck behind the net and found DeBlois in front. A miscommunication on defense allowed DeBlois to zip it over to Motte, who quickly put it past Casey DeSmith for the winner.

“The little pass just missed one of our guys’ sticks,” van Riemsdyk said. “That’s just the bounce of the game. They had a guy waiting.”

Though Umile said the team was “sloppy” in the first period, the Wildcats took the lead 6:18 into the game, oddly enough after one of the kind of near-misses the team bemoaned afterward. Goumas missed a good chance when he couldn’t score from up close after being set up by Grayson Downing, but the senior left wing made up for it seconds later, rifling a shot from the high slot that ticked off a Michigan player and beat goalie Zach Nagelvoort.

Michigan tied the game on the power play when Alex Guptill took a pass down low, dodged UNH defenders knocking at the puck and beat DeSmith 9:40 into the first. The Wolverines then took the lead 4:03 into the second, again on the power play as Luke Moffatt tried a pass across the crease to Guptill that hit off DeSmith’s skate and went in.

An odd bounce put the Wildcats behind, but another one, this time with UNH on the man advantage, drew them even. Goumas took the puck into the right corner behind the goal line, then, seeing Nagelvoort looking away, threw the puck in at the goalie’s skates. The puck hit his pads and tricked in, making the score 2-2 with 4:58 to go in the second period.

“I’ve done that before,” he said. “If the goalie’s least expecting it, (Umile) says it all the time, just throw it at the feet. … Goalie wasn’t ready for it. If (it misses him) and it gets to the back door, I know my guy’s there.”

DeSmith, making his second start of the season, totaled 32 saves and made a game-saving stop when Michigan crashed the net and the Wolverine players thought they had gotten the puck over his shoulder. DeSmith corralled the puck on the goal line to stop the action, however, and after a quick review, the officials ruled no goal to keep the score tied.

There was no doubt about the overtime winner, however, which saddled the UNH players and coaches with a tone of frustration afterward.

“We had our chances. It’s all about getting good scoring chances, and we didn’t finish when we had the opportunity,” Umile said. “Overall, I thought the guys competed hard over the weekend. Disappointed we only got one point.”

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

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