Heading into this past weekend, UNH and BU were tied for fifth place in the Hockey East with 19 points apiece. Thus, every point is crucial as teams fight for a playoff spot in the tightly competitive conference.
A sweep would skyrocket the winner into third place, and the loser into ninth place. UNH ended the weekend in ninth place, looking from the outside at the Hockey East playoffs.
After a shaky 4-1 loss Friday evening, the Wildcats entered Agganis Arena with a vengeance Saturday night. That extra oomph was a positive for the ‘Cats, but it also worked to their dismay.
UNH got on the board in the first minute and a half with a chip-in shot from junior wing Liam Blackburn, his fourth of the season. UNH managed to apply pressure on BU graduate goalie Sam Tucker, but that was their only goal of the period.
Soon after, sophomore wing Angus Crookshank, UNH’s leading goal scorer, was ejected from the game for a head-to-head collision with BU’s senior wing Patrick Curry. Crookshank may have been defending himself on the play, but the refs deemed the collision enough for ejection.
UNH head coach Mike Souza was frustrated after losing his leading goal scorer in an important game. “That stuff happens, guys go down with injuries, whatever it is, ejections. You start shuffling the deck a bit with the lines, so naturally you get out of rhythm. He’s our leading goal scorer, he’s on the power play. It effects the game for sure, but it was the right call.”
BU head coach Albie O’Connell saw the ejection as an opportunity to gain momentum. “It wasn’t a perfect game for us. UNH came out and played really well. They took it to us in the first two periods… We were pretty fortunate that they took a five-minute major and they lost their best player early. Anytime you lose your best player, you’re scrambling lines and that makes it a lot harder.”
The Wildcats were faced with a five-minute major seven minutes into the game, and as a result the Terriers scored on the extended power play.
BU tied it up with a nifty goal by first year forward Wilmer Skoog, his fourth of the season. Skoog positioned himself on the glove side of Robinson, brought the puck to the stick side and lifted it past the extended Robinson.
Come the second period, UNH committed the first of two unfortunate occurrences where a player scored a goal but skated into the goalie, forcing the referees to call it off. That seemed to stifle UNH’s momentum, as Curry gave BU the lead at 15:04 and the Terriers never looked back.
UNH continued to rack up shots throughout the third period, but Tucker was rock solid in net and shutout the Wildcats for the remainder of the night. BU junior forward Logan Cockerill scored an empty netter for his second goal of the season, capping the weekend sweep for the Terriers.
Souza commented on their inability to score despite the high amount of shots. “One goal is not going to cut it.”
The Wildcats have four games to go this season: Two against fourth place UMass Lowell, and two against first place Boston College. While this is a daunting task, UNH is only five points out of first place in the Hockey East and they are two points away from being tied for sixth. A lot can happen in these next three weeks, but one thing is for sure. If UNH cannot get at least a pair of ties in those four games, they’ll be watching the playoffs on TV.
The ‘Cats have a bye week this weekend, and they continue play against UMass Lowell February 28 at 7 p.m. in Durham.