Durham, NH – The University of New Hampshire Wildcats got 32 saves from senior goaltender Mike Robinson to earn a 2-1 overtime victory over the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in front of 4,316 at the Whittemore Center on Saturday night. The Minutemen rescued a point when defenseman Scott Morrow scored with 1.1 left in regulation to tie the game for the visitors. Senior Jackson Pierson tipped a shot past Matt Murray (20 saves) just thirty-seven seconds into the extra frame.
Freshman Liam Devlin gave the Wildcats the 1-0 lead late in the first period when he deflected a Kalle Eriksson shot past Murray for his third goal of the season. The Wildcats clung to that lead with all they had until the fateful final seconds of the third period.
The Wildcats had a better start on Saturday night after a slow one on Friday in Amherst. Despite an early penalty on defenseman Colton Huard at 1:19 of the first, UNH took the game to the Minutemen. UMass had two shots on Robinson during the man advantage, but the New Hampshire native was solid. Freshman Lucas Mercuri had a rebound chance shot just wide of the open net after a save put Robinson out of position.
Luke Reid set up Carsen Richels with a pass inside the left circle, but Murray smothered Richels shot. Murray was equally impressive in his performance, matching Robinson save for save.
The Wildcats controlled the play throughout the first period. Their hard work paid off at 17:33 when Devlin tapped in Eriksson’s pass past Murray. Pierson carried the puck into the Minutemen zone and dished to Devlin at the top of the left circle. Devlin spun on a Minuteman defender and passed back to a streaking Eriksson along the boards. The freshman made his way to the net and was there to tip Eriksson’s pass past Murray glove-side.
The pace of the second period slowed because of seven penalties called. The Minutemen had four power-plays to the Wildcats three. Despite the number of stoppages, the two teams traded chances all period, with each netminder trying to outdo the other. Both goalies had 10 saves a piece in the middle frame; five of Robinson’s came while on the penalty kill.
At one point, Massachusetts and New Hampshire traded breakaway bids. First Wildcats forward Tyler Ward took advantage of an expiring penalty on teammate Cam Gendron. Gendron stepped out of the penalty box, and Ward hopped the boards to catch a long clearing attempt and raced in on Murray. Ward fired off a snapshot from just below the circles, but the Minuteman keeper gloved Ward’s bid out of the air.
Just nine seconds later, UMass forward Bobby Trivigno had a breakaway chance when he split two UNH defenders and faked a shot on Robinson only to keep the puck and try to beat the falling goalie with a backhander. Still, Robinson gloved it as he fell to the ice.
A few minutes later, Robinson again came up big on a breakaway bid by Anthony Del Gaizo. This time Robinson made the save but was also aided by defenseman Will Margel‘s slash on Del Gaizo. Margel would serve two minutes in the penalty box.
The third period saw the Minutemen start to take control of the game. UMass put 16 shots on goal in the final twenty minutes of play.
An early penalty on Gendron for Boarding resulted in one shot on the net. Then the Wildcats carried play for a few minutes as they had a power-play later in the period but could not beat Murray to build on the lead.
A Slashing call on Eriksson at 17:26 gave the Minutemen the final push they needed. They put three shots on Robinson with Murray on the bench for the extra attacker.
There were a few scrums in front of the Wildcats net as the final minute wound down. UNH killed off the Eriksson penalty, a good thirty seconds or more as a six-on-four, but the Minutemen still had time and an extra skater.
After a scrum originally left 4.1 seconds on the clock, the officials huddled and reviewed the play to determine how much time remained on the clock. After a few minutes of video review, the officials, Walker Holton and Steve Roullaird decided there should be 6.4 left. What a difference 2.3 seconds makes.
Del Gaizo won the face-off, to Robinson’s right, back to defenseman Morrow who walked the blueline to fire off a shot blocked by a UNH defender. Morrow gathered his rebound and got a blast through that beat Robinson five-hole to tie the game with 1.1 left on the clock.
That’s when Pierson was able to work his magic to pull back the all too valuable extra point in Hockey East play. Pierson corralled a loose puck in the Wildcats zone, skated into the Minutemen zone, and dished across the ice to Eric MacAdams. MacAdams threw a shot on goal, and Jackson tipped it past Murray to kick off the celebration in the corner.
The linesman reviewed the play for offsides but confirmed the call on the ice shortly after.
“It feels like this year, every game in Hockey East is going to be a one-goal game,” said Minutemen coach Greg Carvel. “I didn’t like the way we started. They were just a stronger team in the first period, but I liked our second and third periods. Our power-play (0-7) was ineffective tonight, which was a big factor.”
“It was good character for the guys to score late in the game to get us a point. I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of three-on-three, but it’s not my choice.”
“I’m proud of our team. I thought we showed up with something to prove tonight,” said UNH Head Coach Mike Souza. “I know they are beaten up, but they still have a really, really good lineup. I’m just happy for our guys. Especially finishing it off in overtime after kind of an obviously a huge letdown giving up a goal with, I guess they put it back to six seconds, but some guys were on the ice. They didn’t quit. It was a great win. I thought Michael Robinson was outstanding.”
The Minutemen (7-4-1 overall, 5-2-1 in HEA) are off until December 3 and 4 when they have a home and home series against UMass-Lowell. The River Hawks host at Tsongas Arena on Friday at 7:05 pm, while the Minutemen host the return engagement on Saturday at 8 pm.
The Wildcats will travel to Cambridge, MA, to take on the Harvard Crimson on November 26. They will then host the Holy Cross Crusaders on Saturday at the Whittemore Center. Both games start at 7 pm.