Compiled by BRIAN DUNN and MARK GARBINO
The St. Lawrence University Saints spoiled a late UNH comeback with an overtime goal to defeat the Wildcats 3-2 on Friday night at the Whittemore Center.
UNH found itself down 2-0 in the final 10 minutes of the game, and desperation-mode kicked in. A strong push by the Wildcats tilted the ice in their favor as they began pelting the SLU net with shots. SLU goaltender Kyle Hayton stood tall until junior forward Jamie Hill finally broke the shutout. While killing a penalty, Hill was able to get Hayton down, wrap the puck around the back of the net, and throw a shot out front that deflected off a defenseman’s skate and into the net.
With just under three minutes to go, UNH went on a power play and was able to convert. Holding the puck in the right corner, Kyle Smith fed a pass out front to Maxim Gaudreault, who one-timed a shot top shelf to knot the game up at two and cause the Whitt to erupt.
Confidence was key for the Wildcats in the third period as they showed their resiliency to climb back into the game.
“We were real confident,” said Gaudreault. “We had the momentum going there, and it’s kind of devastating that they got that goal at the end.”
The Saints controlled the majority of the opening frame. They applied pressure on Danny Tirone from the get-go, and were rewarded with back-to-back goals midway through the period. The Saints opened the scoring with a short side wrist shot from just below the left faceoff dot that beat Tirone over the shoulder. Momentum swung in their favor, and 43 seconds later they potted another goal following a scramble in the goal crease. The Wildcats’ scoring chances were limited in the period, and they were outshot 10-9.
The Wildcats’ offense came out in the second period continuing to look flat. They were having trouble connecting on passes, and seemed out of sync. There was little offense generated on either side, and the goaltenders turned away all shots they faced in the period.
Following the game, Gaudreault was not pleased with the result and stressed the importance of playing consistently.
“It’s a missed opportunity for us,” he said. “Third period, we were playing with a sense of urgency more. We need to play like that throughout the whole game.”
Despite the loss, head coach Dick Umile was satisfied with his team’s effort.
“They played very hard in the third period,” he said. “I thought the guys battled most of the game. We had our chances, and we just didn’t get it done. You battle back to tie it up, and you don’t want to lose it.”
It was close in the second game, but once again no cigar for the Wildcats. Heartbreak struck for the fans and players as a game-winning goal came in the waning moments of the third period for Clarkson. UNH dropped its second in a row, falling to Clarkson 4-3.
While the Wildcats were playing a competitive game against SLU, Clarkson was blown out by Merrimack College by a score of 7-1 on Friday night. The tables turned for the Golden Knights as they controlled play for most of the evening.
The Wildcats came out flat and struggled. Umile certainly was not pleased with the team’s performance in the weekend’s second contest.
“I just told my staff and I told the team that was awful,” Umile said, in regards to his team’s lackluster effort throughout the game. “[The team] gave it away all night. Couldn’t handle the puck, couldn’t play. It was just a terrible display of hockey.”
From the drop of the puck, the Wildcats struggled to get any sort of rhythm going offensively. The team once again found itself trailing, as an early penalty by Harry Quast’s led to the first goal of the game. Clarkson’s A.J. Fossen, parked in the slot, ripped a one-timer past Tirone to put the Golden Knights up 1-0 in the concluding moments of the first period.
Fossen’s goal marked the third consecutive game that the opposing team has scored first, and the team addressed the need to score first and prevent early deficits moving forward.
“It’s tough, I mean, first goal in hockey, you want to get that ultimately,” freshman defenseman Matt Dawson said. “Especially playing here at home, first goal is very important.”
The second period provided a much more hostile environment on the ice. Frustrations boiled over and tensions built up after a UNH defensive breakdown led to a Clarkson goal off a penalty. The shot came courtesy of Troy Josephs.
Big hits early in the period ultimately led to a brawl, which occurred behind Clarkson goaltender Steve Perry’s net. Five penalties were given out as a result, and UNH headed to the power play.
The Wildcats were able to cut the deficit to one after a tip-in goal provided by Kyle Smith put the ‘Cats on the board about eight minutes into the second period. Another goal tallied by Maxim Gaudreault on a Wildcat power play evened the score at two, and Dawson believes the team can take their perseverance as a positive moving ahead.
“We’re not going to give up,” he said, trying to shed positive light on the disappointing performance. “No lead for [opponents] is going to be too much for us to come back from.”
The third period saw its fair share of shots, game-saving stops and bone-crunching hits. But the score remained tied for over 19 minutes.
An offensive possession by Clarkson in the final minute allowed Clarkson senior forward Jeff DiNallo to play the hero. He ripped a shot from the slot past Tirone to give the Golden Knights the lead with 42 seconds remaining in regulations. The goal sealed the Wildcats’ fate and handed them their second straight loss.
Saturday’s game concluded the Wildcats’ opening series at home. The team begins a six-game road trip starting next week, with a Hockey East conference bout against UMass Amherst on Friday, Oct. 23.