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Eagles soar, hand Wildcats rare home loss
By Patrick McClary
Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Media Credit: Scott Yates
Winnik tries to get past a BC Eagle defender during Saturday night´s loss at the Whitt.
Media Credit: Scott Yates
Hemmingway (left) gives Gionta (right) a piece of his mind during Saturday night´s game.
The University of New Hampshire men's hockey team only had enough magic for one night. After staging a third period comeback on Friday night, salvaging a 3-3 tie, UNH looked tired and unorganized and Boston College took advantage, handing the Wildcats just their second home loss of the season with a 5-2 win on Saturday night.
Four first period goals buried UNH early and forced Coach Dick Umile to relieve goalie Kevin Regan half way through the period after giving up three goals, dealing the freshman just his second collegiate loss.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats remained atop the Hockey East standings going into the final weekend of play with 33 points. If this past weekend wasn't the most important, next weekend undoubtedly is. Just three points separate the top four teams and all four will face off with UNH playing a home-and-home series against third place Boston University (31). Boston College, with 32 points, will host Maine (30 points) for two to finish out the regular season.
For Jerry York's Eagles, Saturday's contest marked the first win in seven and a half years in Durham, even with championship quality teams at his disposal.
"The Olympic sized arena and the rabid following they have makes it a difficult place to play," York said. "We made some terrific plays to score goals. You can't fault Regan, they were very good goals. Then it gave us all our confidence."
Much of that confidence came from their defensive zone and Matti Kaltiainen. The senior came up huge for the Eagles, especially early. In the first period, Justin Aikins and Jacob Micflikier went down two on one, but Kaltiainen came up with the stop. Minutes later, Sean Collins walked in all alone but couldn't beat the BC goalie.
BC opened the scoring with Ryan Shannon's even strength goal at 9:39 in the first. They made it 2-0 when Ned Havern notched his second goal of the weekend on the power play. Two more quick goals made it 4-0 at the first intermission.
While the Wildcats came out flying to start the game, it quickly went downhill and they just couldn't claw their way back like a night before.
"You have to give them credit," Umile said. "They came in here and played very well." The 'Cats never seemed to be able to counter what the Eagles were doing on defense and couldn't cool down their offense.
"It was mental errors, that's what killed us," Preston Callander said. "They played well. They wanted it more."
The 'Cats did at least round out the scoring in the first period when the power line of Collins, Callander and Brett Hemingway combined for Hemingway's team leading 20th goal of the season on the power play at 16:56.
But in the second, the coffin was nailed shut when BC's leading scorer Patrick Eaves fired a shot off a face off to make it a 5-1 Eagles lead.
The UNH power play came up with one more goal. Callander and Hemingway set up Brian Yandle for a shot high in the slot that found its way past Kaltiainen for the 'Cats second and final goal of the game.
The Wildcats usually potent power play, though scoring two goals, was held to just seven shots over six power play chances.
The loss gives the seventh-ranked Wildcats a record of 22-9-4 overall with a 15-5-3 record in Hockey East. Umile has no doubt that his team will compete for their third Hockey East title in four years.
"We're in control. We'll be ready to play," Umile said. "All [top] four teams and we're all playing each other. It'll be an interesting weekend."
But it's the Wildcats who are still the best team in the standings. They're in the driver's seat for the most important weekend of the season.
"We're still in control of our own destiny," said Callander.
The 'Cats will travel to Agganis Arena to take on the BU Terriers on Thursday night before coming back to the Whittemore Center to play the final regular season game of the season.
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