Wildcats fail to find rhythm
Despite late surge, UNH falls to Maine
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2013 00:03
Eric Knodel and Austin Block led the late surge for the Wildcats as they tried to claw their way back from a 4-1 deficit, but it was not enough as No. 4 New Hampshire fell to border-rival Maine 4-3 on Friday night in Durham, N.H.
UNH spent the vast majority of regulation trying to find its rhythm, eventually piecing together three goals in the final period. But it was far too late, as Maine continuously found its own chances and capitalized throughout the third, scoring three goals of its own.
The table was set for UNH to take the No. 1 seat in Hockey East as UMass Lowell fell to Providence and Boston College tied with Vermont on Friday. Instead, the Wildcats find themselves heading into Saturday's game fighting for home ice in the playoffs.
"We blew that opportunity to win the regular season championship," UNH head coach Dick Umile said. "The cards were laid out for us to do it."
Knodel assisted on the first UNH goal with 6:36 remaining in the third period when he fired a shot from just inside the blue line that found Dalton Speelman's stick just in front of the net. Speelman tipped the shot, sending the puck slowly over the top of Maine netminder Martin Ouellette's head and into the back of the net.
The goal brought the Wildcats within one, but Maine responded shortly after when both Mike Cornell and Kyle Beatie scored within 20 seconds of each other, extending the lead to 4-1.
Umile pulled goalie Casey DeSmith from the crease while on the power play, giving UNH a six-on-four situation with just two minutes remaining. This was precisely what the Wildcats needed, as Eric Knodel scored on a quick shot from the top of the slot, cutting the lead down to 4-2.
With that goal, New Hampshire has scored on the power play for seven straight games.
UNH remained with an extra skater on the ice and DeSmith on the bench as Maine worked to clear the puck and eat up the clock. It seemed as though Black Bears had created their own game of who could dump the puck into the Wildcats' zone and score on the empty net.
As the closing seconds counted down, UNH did find one more chance to capitalize as Austin Block netted the final goal of the game with 23 seconds left.
"The first two periods, we were not on top of our game," Knodel said. "(We) found it in the third period, but it just took way too long. Its pretty disappointing."
For Umile, it was the second period that brought him the most discouragement.
"The second period was just awful," Umile said. "We couldn't handle the puck, we got outplayed. The shots that (Maine) got, we probably gave them the shots the way we passed the puck."
The Wildcats miscues on offense did lead to a Maine shorthanded score in the first period when Devin Shore picked off a pass that was coughed up by UNH, which set up Steven Swavely with a centering pass for an ideal scoring opportunity that the freshman took full advantage of.
UNH struggled to find any opportunities until the waning minutes when three goals was still too little too late. Now the Wildcats must put this loss behind them, and mentally prepare for Saturday's round two with the Blackbears.
"We didn't bring what we normally have," Knodel said. "Now we just have to worry about (Saturday's) game and just come out of the gates as hard as we can. It's a must win for us now."