UNH men’s hockey sees four-goal lead slip away in third period, ties Brown, 4-4

Monitor staff
Published: 1/7/2018 12:15:16 AM

DURHAM – Saturday night’s game began with the Wildcats playing their best opening period of the season. It ended with their worst.

The two extremes balanced to a 4-4 draw between the No. 20 University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team and Brown University at the Whittemore Center.

UNH took a 4-0 lead into the third period only to watch it slip away, goal by goal, as the minutes ticked off. It was the first time this season the Wildcats allowed four goals in a single period.

Despite UNH playing its best first period of the year in taking a 3-0 lead early, New Hampshire coach Dick Umile, in his 28th and final season behind the bench, didn’t sugarcoat this one. The negatives far outweighed the positives.

“I give Brown credit for coming back in the third period. No credit to us for how we played in the third period,” Umile said.

After getting smacked with four straight losses bridging the mid-season break, UNH found new energy in the first half of Saturday’s game scoring four goals unanswered. Liam Blackburn (two goals) and Benton Maass (power play) scored, both snapping out of a drought that stretched back to Nov. 4. Eric MacAdams also chipped in a goal in the first period, helping the Wildcats mount a lead that they hoped would carry them to their first win since Dec. 6.

It ended up being something else entirely.

Midway through the second period, senior goaltender Danny Tirone received a standing ovation from the home crowd of 3,960 for surpassing UNH’s all-time saves record set by Kevin Regan in 2008. He also matched Regan’s record for games played with 113.

Tirone, who entered the night 19 saves away from breaking the record and now has 3,252 in his career, wasn’t anticipating such a salute.

“I definitely didn’t expect it,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was in terms of getting it. It’s hard to be completely oblivious to this stuff. People talk to you and ask you. I wasn’t expecting it and it was cool. Our fans are awesome.”

It was a warm moment spoiled in the period that followed.

“It was special, but obviously soured by the result,” said Tirone, who made 35 saves. “I wish I made a few more (saves) tonight.”

After fans had tipped their caps to the senior netminder and alternate captain, Brown ramped up its offensive pursuit. The Bears ended the period having outshot the Wildcats, 13-6, but still stared at a zero on the scoreboard.

When the puck dropped in the third, Brown went right back to work. Their first goal came three minutes into the frame with Tommy Marchin scoring his seventh of the season.

That one was enough for Brown coach Brendan Whittet to start thinking his team had a chance to pull itself out of this hole. They’d already done something like it this season. On Dec. 2, Brown came back against RPI after trailing 4-1 with nine minutes left in the third period and won in overtime.

“You don’t think that far ahead but the energy was really good on the bench,” Whittet said. “I thought the guys going into that period had a positive expectation, which I don’t know if that’s deserved or not, but the guys felt good going into that period. Then we got one and you could sense the energy on the bench.”

Tim Lappin cut the deficit to two with 11:33 left in the game, and Tyler Bird brought the Bears within one on a power play seven minutes later.

With less than two minutes on the clock, Londonderry native Brent Beaudoin, a sophomore at Brown, scored the tying goal on a puck that bounced around the crease before slipping through.

“The puck went across me and in the air … the kid shot it, it went off my arm and just barely went over the goal line,” Tirone said. “A little bit of a broken play, and I got behind it. I had to stretch out. Tough bounce, I guess.”

The game turned to overtime, but no winner emerged as the Wildcats took their second tie of the season.

The first-period goals came in at a rate Umile had not seen from his squad all season, building up to a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

It was the third time this season the Wildcats have scored two goals in the first period and the first where they’ve scored three. But the third-period collapse made all of this an afterthought for Umile in his postgame press conference.

“We talked about playing a 60-minute hockey game before the game, after the first period, after the second period, and did absolutely nothing in the third period,” he said.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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