Durham, NH- In a game that neither team wanted to make mistake in, UMass took an early 1-0 lead on UNH at 12 minutes, and 19 seconds as Michael Pereira found a puck and beat Casey Desmith glove-side, high. That lead would hold through the first intermission until UNH got on the board as Eric Knodel sent a shot from the point in on net that Matt Willows tipped past UMass goaltender, Steve Masterlerz. The game went into the third period tied 1-1 and it stayed that way until UMass’ Eddie Olczyck got open on the weak side and beat Desmith to give UMass a late 2-1 lead over UNH.
But the fun had just begun. Just when it seemed UMass was going to skate away with a victory, UNH’s John Henrion, on a similar play to the UMass go-ahead goal found the back of the net with 3.7 seconds left to go in regulation to tie the game at 2 and send it into overtime.The game would stay that way throughout the overtime period, as both goalies made spectacular saves to salvage the point, as UNH and UMass skated to a 2-2 tie. The tie drops UNH into third place in the standings from a four-way tie for first , while UMass drops into a tie with Maine for the eighth and final playoff spot. The tie also drops UNH in the Pairwise rankings, from fourth to fifth.
What I Saw
- Both teams played very tentative in the third period, as it just seemed as though both teams were content on taking home a tie. The third period was sloppy, ugly and penalty filled. The teams combined for 10 minutes of penalty time and neither team was able to get into any sort of rythym on the power-play or at five on five. Just when it seemed neither team wanted to pounce, the last minute of the third provided more excitement than the rest of the game combined.
- After an exciting overtime period, both teams needed to thank their goalies in a big way. UNH had the better of the opportunities early in the overtime and UMass more so later. In one sequence during the period, UNH’s Casey Desmith made three consecutive dangerous saves. Both goalies were phenomenal throughout the game, especially in the overtime, and the only goals they allowed were goals that they really had no chance on.
What I Thought
- The last time I saw UMass was when they won the Dartmouth tournament in late December. I am still at a loss for words on how this team is competing for the last playoff spot, because by now they really should be a lock in the Hockey East tournament. The talent is there, but maybe not the luck as was the case tonight getting scored upon with 3.7 seconds left in regulation. UMass has wins against UNH, BC and BU this season. Putting a string of efforts together is obviously a huge question mark for this team, but the discrepancy in results is alarming.
- UNH struggled throughout the game with effort and lack of judgments It is hard to imagine how a game so late in the season can be cause for a lack of will, but this was seemingly the case. The last minute of regulation may have shown the true character of UNH, but only time will tell. Will and effort have to be their main focuses going forward. More efforts like tonight and they will find an early exit in both tournaments.
- For a game that should have been an exciting, playoff type atmosphere it really seemed to be the opposite. Both teams were tentative from puck drop and the third period was drawn out, as neither team took control of the period. The penalties were numerous and the period was ugly, at times. The result seemed absolutely fitting to the game.
What They Said
UMass Coach John Michelletto said,
“It was a lot of fun for the first 59 minute, and 56 seconds.”
“I thought it was a bit of a slower start in terms of maybe the energy but I also think it was the way both teams were playing. I thought it was very tightly played with good goaltending.”
UNH Coach Dick Umile said,
“Obviously it was great goaltending by both goalies tonight, as I thought both made some great saves. We are struggling scoring five on five.”
“It is playoff hockey we had our chances, they had theirs and its a big two points out there tomorrow.”
UNH defenseman Eric Knodel said,
“The point we got tonight was huge for us. It was a hard fought final shift and it was good we came out and got a goal with three seconds left.”
UNH Forward John Henrion said,
“We need points and we can’t give any away. Given the results of tonight, we need two points tomorrow. We need to go right back at it.”
What Else You Should Now
UMass will go for the season series against UNH on Saturday night. UMass won an earlier meeting against UNH in overtime. The game will have huge implications for both ends of the spectrum in terms of the standings. It is almost a must win for UNH if they wish to win the Hockey East regular season title.