By BRIAN DUNN
Saturday night had all the elements of a Hockey East classic—goals, big hits and a raucous atmosphere. The only thing missing was a victor, as UNH and Merrimack skated to a 3-3 tie.
“It was a good hockey game. Obviously I thought, you know, we competed hard tonight,” head coach Dick Umile said. “It would have been unfortunate if we didn’t get a point [in the Hockey East standings] coming out of here tonight, because I thought the team played hard all night.”
The teams combined for a total of 12 shots on goal in a slow first period, which ended without a score.
Merrimack’s Craig Wyszomirski drew first blood, putting the Warriors ahead 1-0.
The action ramped up in the third period, as Tyler Kelleher and Andrew Poturalski netted goals 52 seconds apart to put UNH up 2-1. Kelleher’s goal came on a 5-on-3 power play, and Poturalski’s goal also came with the ‘Cats enjoying a man advantage.
But it didn’t take long for the Warriors to answer with a quick pair of goals of their own.
In a 22 second span, Merrimack’s Jace Henning and Brian Christie beat Danny Tirone and the Warriors regained the lead. Five minutes remained in the game and the Wildcats were on the verge of dropping their third game in a row.
Fortunately UNH’s Chris Miller rose to the occasion. The Windham, New Hampshire native found the back of the net off of a pass from Matias Cleland, tying the game with only 38 seconds remaining in the third period.
“[Cleland] fired a shot and good things happen when you fire the puck,” Miller said; Miller has now recorded a goal in two straight games. “It hit off the goalie’s shoulder and I happened to turn around and just kind of batted it in.”
The five minute overtime period ended with only five shots recorded and no goals, so the teams ended in a tie.
A bright spot was UNH’s display of discipline. The Wildcats managed to play three periods of hockey without a single penalty, a quite staggering comparison to Merrimack’s five total penalties. The Wildcats were able to capitalize on the Warriors’ mistakes by scoring two goals on the power play.
“That was huge for us on the power play,” Umile said after his team went 2-5 on the power play on the night. “Any time the guys move the puck pretty well and that was key.”
Danny Tirone stood tall in net on Saturday, recording 28 saves and stymying the Warrior rush for the majority of the game.
Saturday’s draw marks the end of UNH’s six-game road trip, and the Wildcats have a 3-4-2 record (1-0-2 in Hockey East) as they return home. UNH plays host to two conference foes on Friday and Saturday, hosting the UMass Amherst Minutemen and the Boston College Eagles.
“It will be nice,” Miller said of returning to the Whittemore Center. “It will be awfully nice to play in front of them and hopefully we can get four points [in the standings] out of next weekend. That’d be huge for us.”