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Minutemen get under 'Cats' skin

Last modified: 11/14/2010 12:00:00 AM
DURHAM - Burying the puck that laid loose in the low slot, Michael Pereira couldn't contain his excitement. Snapping a tie with just 62 seconds left to play, the rookie winger had just put his University of Massachusetts hockey team on top, and on the verge of its first win this season - so to celebrate the occasion, Pereira turned up ice as soon as the red light lit, and sprawled out in a head-first dive.

Suffice to say, his hosts didn't appreciate the gesture.

'I took that personal, definitely,' said University of New Hampshire center Phil DeSimone. 'Doing something like that in front of our crowd, in front of our rink, it definitely gave me the little bit extra to tie it back up. I think it kind of motivated us a little.'

It took all of 20 ticks for that motivation to make a difference. Collecting the puck in the corner and immediately spotting Blake Kessel in front of the net, DeSimone set up his teammate for the ultimate answer - assisting on the goal that knotted the game again with 42 seconds to play, and eventually salvaged a 3-3 tie for the Wildcats last night at the Whittemore Center.

'It's hard not to notice when a kid dives right in front of your bench, basically,' Kessel said. 'It's pretty tough when you do it in someone else's barn, not to mention that it's not a game-ending goal. We wanted to come back and throw it in their face a little bit.

'Obviously we didn't like that, and it did give us a little boost there.'

With that boost, the eighth-ranked 'Cats (5-1-3, 3-0-2 Hockey East) extended their unbeaten streak to eight games, and escaped with three of four possible points from a weekend with a conference rival.

Considering they had carried a 2-1 lead into the final eight minutes of last night's third period, DeSimone admitted that settling for a draw was something of a disappointment - but based on the fact his team fell behind with a minute left, then was forced to kill a 5-on-3 UMass advantage during overtime, Coach Dick Umile was content with a result that should allow his team to carry some momentum into next week's home-and-home with national No. 1 Boston University.

'At this point,' said the UNH coach, 'the way the game ended, and tying it up at the very end, and what happened in the overtime, we'll take the point and move on.'

UNH positioned itself for a victory by scoring first for the fifth straight game, this one from Mike Sislo just 4:17 into play, then by answering Branden Gracel's goal with a Stevie Moses strike during a power play later in the first. UMass Coach Toot Cahoon said afterward that the video showed that the Wildcats had six skaters on the ice for that tally, but nevertheless it accounted for the margin that stood until the late stages of the third.

UNH had chances to put the game away before then, but hit two posts and failed to seize a two-man advantage. So when Minuteman T.J. Syner beat Matt DiGirolamo (29 saves) with a rocket from the edge of the right circle, the game started over with 7:03 left. When Pereira followed it up barely six minutes later, the young Minutemen (0-6-3, 0-3-4) were suddenly on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The seasoned Wildcats, meanwhile, were simply stirred to life.

'We'll talk to our player about his little swim technique,' Cahoon said. 'He's a freshman. He'll learn. You don't do that in front of a veteran team that's used to winning. That does nothing but get them going.'


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