Durham, NH - Northeastern entered UNH’s Whittemore Center on Saturday night, without a win in seven seasons at New Hampshire last winning on the olympic sheet in 2007. To make matters worse, the Huskies haven’t defeated UNH in the playoffs since 1989. For much of the first two periods, it appeared to be much of the same for NU on its opponents ice. Grayson Downing opened the scoring for UNH at 11 minutes, 35 seconds of the first period, but NU answered just three minutes later off the stick of Ryan Belonger. UNH took another lead at 18:27 of the first when Nick Sorkin was left all alone in front of Clay Witt. UNH not only took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but it entered the second period with 1:34 of of 5 on 3 powerplay time. The powerplay ended up being the turning-point in the series.
UNH’s two-man advantage got plenty of opportunities, but was unable to capitalize. The Huskies caught UNH napping at the end, as Matt Benning exited the box and headed down the ice on a break-away. He was tripped and the Huskies were awarded a penalty shot, which Kevin Roy took and scored to tie the game. UNH would then dominate the middle portions of the second period and would take a 4-2 lead on goals by Kelleher and Agosta. The Huskies though were ever pesky and fought back. Colton Saucerman scored at the 16:29 mark of the second and Kevin Roy scored his second to send it into the third period tied at three.
The third period was a stalemate that saw NU control the possession on UNH, but NU did appear to score midway through the period to take a 5-4 but it was overturned by the guys in stripes to keep the game tied at 4. It was overturned for goaltender interference and the game would head into the overtime tied at four. Mike Szmatula broke the deadlock at 3:39 of the overtime to give NU the 5-4 overtime win. UNH and NU will faceoff in a crucial game three tomorrow at 4:30 at the Whittemore Center. See highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics.
What I Saw
- UNH controlled much of the first period, but the turning point was the failed 5 on 3 early in the second period. The Wildcats had its chances but it was unable to put it past Clay Witt. The momentum really changed when Matt Benning exited the penalty box and got the breakaway that would lead to the penalty shot. UNH may have scored the next two goals after the penalty shot, but the momentum in the game and the series shifted on a dime with that kill and goal.
- Northeastern is never out of a game. Tonight was a clear example of how explosive this team can be. Down 4-2 late in the second, the Huskies came out flying out of the last TV timeout of the second period. Northeastern pounced on a UNH team that laid down a bit, in comparison how it had been playing. NU takes advantage of this and it has all season. In a game earlier in the season against Dartmouth, the Huskies were down four to the Green but came back. Tonight, a two goal deficit was no problem. Never count the Huskies out of any contest.
What I Thought
- Northeastern must be feeling pretty good about its chances tomorrow. It exorcised a ton of demons at the Whittemore Center, against UNH and against Casey Desmith. It had been since 2007 since it won at the Whittemore Center, it hadn’t defeated UNH in the playoffs since 1989 and Casey Desmith had a 6-0-1 record against them with a 0.98 GAA in a seven career games. But Northeastern scored five to end all of those streaks and trends. NU just wanted it more down the stretch, hence it came back to shock its opponent and exorcise the demons so to say.
- New Hampshire needs to finish a game tomorrow night or its season will be over. A loss will end its season, as it sits in 20th in the Pairwise rankings. For UNH to make it, it will need to win the Hockey East tournament. It had plenty of opportunities to win tonight, but much like its season it squandered those opportunities wide or right into the goaltender without traffic.
What They Said
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“We are disappointed that we gave it up. Give them credit they battled back. The turning point in the game was obviously the 5 on 3. We had many chances to put it away, but they got the penalty shot to tie it up. We got up again 4-2. They just beat us at our net front plays.”
NU Coach Jim Madigan said,
“It was a good game and both teams played really hard, I like the way we came back and we showed a lot resilency to tie it and win it. We still battled back, we played hard and played smart. We live to play another day. Game 3′s are always and nothing beats it in hockey.”
“We got a monkey off our back in here by beating them. We g0t over the hump here tonight and we will look forward to tomorrow night.”
NU forward Mike Szmatula said,
“We have a special group and we have had it all year. We have had our ups and downs. We have great leadership and togetherness. We just never quit even when we are down.”
“My line played well tonight and every line played well. We really want to play for the older guys because it is their last chance here. Whoever got the winner didn’t matter to us.”
What Else You Should Know
New Hampshire and Northeastern will play a decisive game three tomorrow night in Durham. UNH is 3-1-0 against NU this season, but it is really tough to beat a team four straight times or four times in a season period. Look for tomorrow to be a fun old fashioned shootout like it was tonight.