The men’s hockey teams of the UNH Wildcats and the Northeastern University Huskies braved the elements on Saturday, Jan. 14 and competed in an outdoor game under the lights at Fenway Park in Boston, as part of the Frozen Fenway series presented by the Hockey East conference.
For the Wildcats, it was the first time UNH has returned to Fenway since 2011, when they fell to the Maine Black Bears in overtime, 5-4. No active player of the UNH roster was a part of that last appearance, which created a first time and lifetime experience for many of the student-athletes.
“It was an awesome experience,” senior captain Matias Cleland said. “The only thing that could have made it better was a win but I thought our guys played great tonight.”
“Our guys were excited to play here, we came in and it ended up being everything we wanted it to be,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said following the result. “I thought it was a great college hockey game on the frozen ice at Fenway Park; it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Following a thrilling come from behind 5-3 UNH victory at the Whittemore Center on Jan. 12, the ‘Cats and Huskies settled for a 2-2 tie Saturday night, each securing a point in the conference standings as a result. The ‘Cats’ third line, consisting of sophomores Marcus Vela, Ara Nazarian and junior Shane Eiserman, had an impressive showing with two goals coming from the sticks of Nazarian and Eiserman and with four points from the line in total. Goaltender Danny Tirone was steady between the pipes posting 27 saves on the stat sheet, including seven crucial saves in the final regulation period.
Sitting at the bottom of the conference standings, the Huskies were fighting for conference points, and their play in the early minutes indicated it. Adam Gaudette struck first for the Huskies with his 11th goal of the year at 6:56 in the first period on a power play. The Wildcats were quick to respond, however, as the third line continued to find ways to wreak havoc in the Huskies’ defensive zone.
Off a turnaround shot from Anthony Wyse, Nazarian found the rebound and tucked one past goaltender Ryan Ruck to knot it up at one goal apiece. On the next shift, Eiserman found an open look on Ruck in point-blank range and fired it home, giving the ‘Cats their first lead of the game at 9:18 in the second period.
“[Eiserman and Vela] create of room out there, and they’re both really skilled,” Nazarian said in regard to his linemates and their recent production. “I think, as a line, we’re starting to come together, get pucks to the net, get it in deep and get our cycle game going. I think we’re coming along.”
As the game progressed, the night got colder, as did the offensive attack of both teams. After two highly-intense periods of hockey, the latter of which ended with a game-tying goal from Jeremy Davies with under a minute to go, the third was a lackluster stalemate for the majority of the period. With the puck taking many awkward bounces on the ice, neither team could gain a significant edge as both combined for only 16 shots on goal and overtime was forced. After five minutes of overtime play and zero shots were recorded, the teams settled for a draw with a split of the conference points.
Despite the tie, Umile was pleased with the result, along with the weekend overall, considering the Wildcats won the first matchup two days earlier.
“When you can get three out of four points in Hockey East it’s a good weekend,” Umile said. “Four points is a great weekend but three out of four is a good weekend.”
The Wildcats will hit the road to South Bend, Indiana next weekend for a two-game series against the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, starting on Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.