Durham, NH- In a game that was the difference between hosting a first round game and going on the road for the first round, UNH had everything on the line. They responded early with a crisp game from the start and were rewarded with a first period lead, as Max Gaudreault sent a pass to a wide open Scott Pavelski, who scored to give UNH the 1-0 lead at 15 minutes, 59 seconds of the first. That lead would be doubled at 14:06 of the second to give UNH a 2-0, but then the flood gates opened. Joey Diamond, Grayson Downing and Adam Shemansky all scored in the latter five minutes of the second to send UNH into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Maine would score at 5:58 of third, as Joey Diamond beat Casey Desmith on a rebound to give Maine life and a tied game with 14 minutes remaining in the contest. Connor Riley would score a go-ahead goal at 7:14 of the third to give the Black Bears their first lead of the night, but it was short-lived as Eric Knodel tied the game at four for UNH with 3:38 remaining in regulation. Neither team took control in the overtime period, as UNH and Maine would finish in a 4-4 tie.
The tie puts UNH in a wait and see mode in terms of the Hockey East playoffs. Maine will finish with the seventh or eighth seed in the Hockey East, which is quite the remarkable comeback considering they started the season 1-5-2 in league play. UNH,with the tie, still sits in a tie for fifth place in the Pairwise rankings.
What I Saw
- As was the case last weekend, UNH looked like a different team on Saturday than on Friday. They were crisper with passes, had a higher compete level and won more puck battles. The defensive side was solid and Casey Desmith was in net as well. This has become the mo of this team, when they play strong defensively and are able to win puck battles they tend to win games while scoring goals in the process. The defensive side of the puck is key in their offense. They got away from that early in the third and it cost them dearly.
- Maine came to UNH for four points and it was evident on this night. The Black Bears, despite, going down early responded well to everything and anything that UNH threw at them on the weekend. When UNH scored, they usually came back with a good response shift and when they took the momentum it was kept in their favor by piecing together shifts. Maine seemed to play the games as though it was by the shift instead of looking ahead to the rest of the game. Dring the weekend series it seemed as though the Black Bears were the team competing for the regular season title, not the Wildcats.
What I Thought
- Maine and UNH both played with an edge, as both teams were committed to blocking shots and taking the body throughout the contest. Maine was playing for a better seed, as they could have improved their seeding to number seven, and UNH was playing for home-ice. The teams are border rivals and the games are ever important in terms of the season for both teams. Each team won on the other’s home-ice, which was bitter sweet for Maine especially given their recent horrors at the Whittemore Center.
- Maine has built themselves into a contender in Hockey East, as they have been the only team to consistently win against all the teams at the top of league. In the second half, Maine had two wins against Boston College, a win against UMass-Lowell, a tie each against Boston University, Providence and Merrimack and Friday night’s win against UNH. They went 4-3-3 against the teams that entered the last weekend with a chance at the regular season title, in the second half of the year.
- UNH did not respond well to Maine goals all weekend. Just when it seemed that UNH would cruise to a victory up 3-1, Maine responded quickly after to make it 3-2. The same can be said of the third period as Maine scored a goal at 5:58 of the third then backed it up just over a minute later to give the Black Bears a 4-3. These lapses happened on both nights, Friday night it gave Maine a 4-1 lead and on this night it gave Maine a one goal lead heading toward the latter stages of the third period. Responses are key in hockey and it was arguably the difference in the weekend.
What They Said
Maine coach Tim Whitehead,
“It was an exciting weekend of hockey, probably too exciting at points for the coaches. But it was good and hard fought. We knew it wasnt going to be easy. After a tie it’s tough to know what to say.”
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“Obviously we aren’t too excited giving up the opportunity to win it and the fact we gave it up in the third period. We wanted to win and we are disappointed with not winning the game.”
“Our fourth line played well for us. We played them right up until the overtime. I thought they got it going for us a couple times. The gave us some motivation and jam all night.”
Maine forward Joey Diamond,
“We didn’t let the UNH goals phase us. We have been in that situation a few times before and we kept battling back.”
“This game mattered to us. We dont go looking past any game and we definitely didn’t look past this one tonight. We are happy to pick up three out of four points.”
What Else You Should Know
UNH and Maine will both await who they will play in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. UNH will be completely disappointed without home ice and for Maine where they end up really doesn’t matter considering they could still face any of the teams near the top.