WILDCATS 0, MINUTEMEN 3
WILDCATS 2, MINUTEMEN 1 (OT)
DURHAM, N.H. — It was David versus Goliath this weekend as the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (5-7-1, 3-5-1) played a home-and-home series with the No. 8 UMass (7-4-1, 5-2-1) Minutemen.
However, the two-game set ran contrary to the popular Bible verse. Where David shockingly slew his enemy, UNH could only pull off a series draw against UMass, losing the first game before winning the second to close out the weekend.
Friday’s start of the weekend series was a night to remember for the Minutemen’s captains. Amherst’s senior captain Bobby Trivigno struck first blood roughly eight minutes into the match. The puck found Trivigno’s stick thanks to a slick pass from junior teammate Ryan Lebster. Trivigno coasted into the high slot then ripped his shot past the pads of UNH junior goaltender David Fessenden.
The scoreboard stood still for the rest of the first period and all of the second period. Despite this, the Minutemen never relinquished their stranglehold of the game. Defensively, UMass allowed just one shot on goal from UNH during the second while offensively they peppered UNH junior goaltender David Fessenden nine times.
With two minutes left in the third, another captain for Amherst struck again. This time it was senior alternate captain Colin Felix who worked his way down from the point before he fired one into Fessenden’s five-hole. Given the time constraints and UNH’s inability to find the back of the net, it was the death knell for the Wildcats on Friday night.
It was a third period that saw the ‘Cats outplay the Minutemen in every major statistical category. They had a 12-4 shot advantage and played a much-improved game, but they still couldn’t find the back of the net.
UNH got their best opportunity seven minutes into the third on a power play due to a roughing penalty on graduate student Matt Baker. If the Wildcats scored here, the game would’ve been tied, and had the game squeaked into overtime, they would’ve picked up a much-needed point in the Hockey East standings.
Yet it was the same story for the Wildcats offense as they only generated one shot on goal during the power play which UMass’s graduate student goaltender Matt Murray had to brush aside. The Wildcats’ control of the period was something even UMass head coach Greg Carvel recognized.
“UNH was the better team in the third,” admitted Carvel. “But the guys did a good job. [UMass] killed a late penalty, that was a terrible penalty to take at that time in the game. Especially with a one-goal lead, but I thought Matt [Murray] was solid. I thought the team played solid in front of them.”
With 42 seconds left in regulation, Trivigno scored his second goal of the game – this time an empty netter to call curtains on the first game of the series.
24 hours later, UNH found themselves back in the comforts of the Whittemore Center, and back with a different goaltender: senior Mike Robinson.
Robinson captivated the crowd Saturday night, with a big stop at seemingly every turn en route to 32 saves total. It was a performance that UNH head coach Mike Souza lauded.
“I thought Michael Robinson was outstanding,” said Souza. “As I’ve said before, the before, the best of Michael Robinson is pretty darn good.”
Robinson’s last save was perhaps his largest. Lebster fired a shot from the point towards Robinson, but the goaltender couldn’t make the save cleanly. Suddenly it was a maelstrom of sticks snaking in and around the crease. Half determined to sneak the puck past Robinson, half determined to avoid that fate.
In the end, Robinson emerged from the scrum with the puck burrowed under his body and 4.7 seconds separating him from his first shutout of the season. Or at least that was the initial assumption from inside the Whitt.
Following a review, the clock was pushed back from 4.7 to 6.1 seconds. The difference allowed UMass first-year defender Scott Morrow time to fling the puck from the point and slide right under Robinson’s five-hole to tie the game.
“We were kind of just saying ‘shake it off. Forget about it. Let’s just win it in overtime,’” said senior forward Jackson Pierson. “There was nothing we could really do with one second left, but that was just the mindset going into it. Let’s just win the game in overtime.”
Pierson’s resilience translated into success immediately. 30 seconds into overtime Pierson carried the puck from the Wildcats end, shook a defender, entered the Minutemen’s zone and passed it to fifth-year teammate Eric MacAdams. MacAdams held the puck for a moment before rifling it back to Pierson who tapped it over Murray’s shoulder to seal the win.
“Honestly, I was just kind of playing, obviously trying to score, not much other than that,” Pierson said about his mindset during the game-winning goal.
“I’m very proud of our team,” said Souza. “We faced a lot of adversity in the game tonight. You give up a goal with a second left, then find a way to pull it out in overtime. So just happy for our guys – happy for Jackson. He’s our best player. And you need your best player to make plays, and he did.”
Souza added, “it doesn’t get any easier from here” for the Wildcats as they head to Cambridge to play No. 16 Harvard (4-2-1, 3-1-1) Friday, Nov. 26. They’ll then return to the comforts of home to take on College of the Holy Cross (2-10-1, 2-5-1) Saturday, Nov. 27.
Photo courtesy of Jess Speechley