If you want to get out of a slump and end a seven-game losing streak, why not do it against the second-ranked team in the country?
That’s exactly what St. Lawrence did, as the Saints scored four unanswered goals in the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit en route to shocking No. 2 New Hampshire, 4-2, at the Whittemore Center despite being outshot by a whopping 50-19 disadvantage.
St. Lawrence sophomore goaltender Kevin Ackley had a tremendous game, stopping 48 of the 50 shots the Wildcats poured on him. The Saints’ third line recorded six points in the victory.
“I can tell you right now, it’s been a while since we’ve felt this way. To say that we needed this game is an understatement,” said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh. “We played a team that was stronger than us, but I think we got some breaks that we haven’t gotten in a while. I can’t think of a better Christmas present.”
It marked the first time in the last seven meetings that St. Lawrence was able to defeat New Hampshire. The Saints had not beaten UNH since the 1992-1993 season.
St. Lawrence improved to 3-11-1, while New Hampshire dropped to 10-3-2.
“I’m not very happy. We just didn’t get the job done. We had plenty of opportunities. Their goalie played well, but I think we helped him out. It’s a huge disappointment,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “We let them hang in there. That was the difference in the game.”
In fact, the difference in the game may well have been New Hampshire’s continued struggles on the power play. UNH, which entered the game dead last in Hockey East play on the power play with an 8.1 percent success rate, went 0-6 with the man advantage in the nonleague tilt.
The Saints were coming off a tough 3-2 loss the night before to UMass-Lowell, their seventh straight defeat. New Hampshire, meanwhile, was enjoying a three-game winning streak, having allowed only three goals during that stretch.
The first period saw New Hampshire applying constant pressure while generating numerous scoring chances. The best came off the stick of freshman defenseman Brian Yandle, who was set up from 10 feet out. But in a preview of things to come, Ackley was up to the challenge with the glove.
You could say that the Saints’ scoring chances in the first period were minimal. They only had four of them in total (to New Hampshire’s 11), and they didn’t register their first shot on goal until past the 12-minute mark.
Despite the shot advantage for the Wildcats, New Hampshire and St. Lawrence went to their respective dressing rooms deadlocked at 0-0 after one period.
“They generate a lot of speed in the neutral zone,” said Marsh. “At one point, one of their guys blew past one of our guys at about 60 miles an hour. He came back to the bench and chuckled to me, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I told him, ‘Pray, I guess.’
That’s a great team that we played tonight, which in some ways makes it even more unbelievable.”
In the second period, New Hampshire finally got on the board. Sophomore Justin Aikins picked up a rebound from behind the net. Ackley, who had gone out to try to corral the puck, found himself out of position, then down 1-0; Aikins got there first and sent a pass out front to Nathan Martz, who found the back of a wide-open net for his sixth goal of the season.
Just 1:38 later, UNH went up 2-0, in large part to hard-working forward Josh Prudden, who outfought a St. Lawrence defender for control of the puck deep in the Saints end. The senior fed classmate Lanny Gare, who in turn found a wide-open Colin Hemingway perched to the left of Ackley. Hemingway had the entire right side of the net to shoot at, and made it count with his tenth goal of the season.
Not only were the Saints badly outshot in the first period, but UNH laid on 20 to the Saints’ five in the second frame.
Nevertheless, St. Lawrence, now being outshot 31-9 after two periods, remained only a goal away from being back in the game.
And get back into the game they did.
At 9:22, freshman Adam Hogg dug the puck out from behind the New Hampshire net and fed a picture-perfect pass out front to T. J. Treveleyan, who roofed a shot up and over Wildcat goalie Michael Ayers that clanged off the crossbar and in, and the Saints had cut it to 2-1.
With newfound jump in their legs, the Saints then got the break they needed to knot things up.
Hogg outraced a UNH defender for a loose puck in the New Hampshire zone, then walked in alone on Ayers. The freshman deked left to right and beat Ayers up high for his third of the season, to tie the game at 2-2.
Less than a minute later, with New Hampshire’s Tim Horst off for interference, the Saints capitalized on the power play and on some discombobulated Wildcat players in their own end. Ryan Glenn fired a slap shot from just inside the right circle, which beat a screened Ayers, and all of a sudden St. Lawrence had taken the lead.
At that point, New Hampshire found itself in unfamiliar territory: down a goal late in the third at home. The Wildcats scrambled to try to get the equalizer, with Gare having the best opportunity.
On a three-on-two rush, Hemingway fed Gare streaking in. Ackley made the save of the game, however, miraculously getting a glove on the puck by the left post while sprawled out in the crease to preserve the lead.
Josh Anderson left no doubt about the outcome with an empty-net goal 19:56 to seal the deal for the Saints, 4-2.
“You get 50 shots on goal, you’ve got to come up with more than two goals,” said a disappointed Hemingway. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t finish.”
Added Gare, “It puts a damper on a pretty good first half of the season for us. You don’t want to go into the Christmas break like this.”
The Saints were just 20 minutes away from having an eight-game losing streak and a long bus ride back to Canton, N.Y. Marsh, who played collegiately at UNH, spoke highly of his alma mater’s tradition while relishing the victory.
“New Hampshire has always been a program that plays the game the right way. It’s a great place to come back to.”
Undoubtedly, his players agree.
St. Lawrence hosts Lake Superior in another nonleague contest on Friday at 7 p.m. New Hampshire plays host to the U.S. Select 18 team on Friday, also at 7 p.m.