By BRIAN DUNN
The men’s hockey team hosted two games over the weekend, as Hockey East rivals UMass Amherst and Boston College came to Durham. The Wildcats tied the Minutemen 2-2 before dropping a 6-3 decision to the No. 2 Eagles.
The ‘Cats took the ice at the Whittemore Center for the first time in over a month on Friday against UMass Amherst. The two teams met in Amherst on Oct. 23, and an epic third period collapse by the Wildcats resulted in a 6-6 tie.
Andrew Poturalski started the scoring with his eighth goal of the season, tipping in a shot off a Cameron Marks pass to put the Wildcats up at the midway point of the first period.
UMass Amherst answered with a goal of its own. Kurt Keats cashed in on a quick rebound to even the score late in the first period, and the teams went into the first intermission locked at 1-1.
Junior defenseman Matias Cleland gave UNH the lead once again with a goal midway through the second period, highlighting the Wildcats’ heavy pressure on the Minutemen’s defensive zone. But the Wildcats suffered another third period collapse, allowing a Shane Walsh goal to tie the game at 2-2 and force an overtime period, which ended with neither team finding the back of the net.
The Wildcats had allowed seven third period goals this season coming into Friday night’s matchup. Team members expressed their displeasure in the postgame press conference.
“I thought we played hard tonight and we did what we could, but [we’ve] got to stop blowing leads like that,” junior forward Tyler Kelleher said. “It’s not acceptable to be blowing leads like that. We shouldn’t be getting ties every game.”
“It just wasn’t enough,” Cleland said, agreeing with his classmate. “Obviously we have been tying games here…and we’ve got to play a full 60 [minutes] and find a way to get that other point.”
Cleland was referencing points in the Hockey East standings. UNH entered the game in eighth place in the conference, two points behind UMass Amherst, Boston College and Vermont. Head coach Dick Umile also spoke on the difficulty of gaining a spot in the conference standings.
“Points are hard to come by,” he said. “We had our chances to score some goals and we didn’t get that done.”
The task didn’t get any easier for the Wildcats when the high-flying Eagles came to visit on Saturday night. Boston College entered the tilt as the No. 2 team in the NCAA.
Led by outstanding play from goaltender Thatcher Demko, Boston College had not allowed a goal to a conference opponent before Saturday night, and the Eagles’ high-powered offense was tallying over four goals per game against Hockey East rivals heading into the game.
The Eagles drew first blood when Ryan Fitzgerald darted down the ice after UNH’s power play broke down. He ripped a shot by UNH goaltender Danny Tirone and the shorthanded goal put Boston College up 1-0.
The Eagles wouldn’t be so lucky on a later power play, as Matt Dawson fired a shot past a screened-off Demko to bring the game back to a tie.
The Eagles went on a two-man advantage after UNH was called for goaltender interference and crosschecking. Boston College had a scoring opportunity turned aside by Tirone, and the ‘Cats managed to neutralize the Eagles for the rest of the Boston College power play.
“I thought we did a good job on that,” Umile said. “Overall, I thought we managed it pretty well.”
At 10:22 in the second period, UNH committed another penalty, and the Eagles took advantage just over a minute late. Teddy Doherty lifted a shot, and the Eagles went back up, 2-1.
The third period woes continued for the Wildcats. Despite peppering Demko with shots throughout the second and third periods and finding the back of the net twice, the Wildcats folded to the Eagles offense.
Boston College netted four third period goals to cement a 6-3 victory, which raises the team’s record to 10-1-0 overall and 4-0-0 in conference.
The loss was the first conference loss for the Wildcats, who are now 1-1-3 in Hockey East play and 3-5-3 overall. The team enters a stretch of non-conference games over the Thanksgiving break. UNH travels to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Tuesday and then returns to the Whittemore Center for a game against Bentley on Saturday. Both games will start at 7 p.m.
“We just have to learn from it and move on,” senior captain Collin MacDonald said, turning his and the team’s focus to the future. “We’re 10 to 11 games in now and just got to take it a game at a time.”
‘Cats can’t climb Hockey East standings at home
By BRIAN DUNN