The No. 4 New Hampshire Wildcats remain unbeaten after scratching their way into overtime to get a point in a 1-1 tie against Massachusetts.
It was a wild night at the Whittemore Center, where 6501 spectators were literally on their feet the whole time.
UMass was too quick for UNH in the first ten minutes of play, relentlessly driving to the crease and crowding Brian Foster’s territory, outshooting UNH 17 to seven.
“They [the Minutemen] were crowding the net a lot,” said Foster. “You just have to find ways around it and try to find ways to watch the puck. Not much you can do about it so you have to deal with it.”
That is exactly what Foster did the remainder of the game, dealing with the Minutemen’s constant attacks, making a total of 38 saves.
Despite the lack of offensive aggression in the first, UNH was holding their own by forcing the Minutemen to the boards. However, the physicality soon began working against them.
UNH forward Danny Dries got a five-minute major for hitting from behind and 10 minutes for game misconduct at 12:11. UNH’s Thomas Fortney joined Dries in the box at 13:26 for hooking, and less than 20 seconds later UMass capitalized on the five-on-three power play. Three maroon jerseys crowded Foster’s space in net, forcing Foster to hit the ice, allowing Chase Langeraap to chip the puck in for an easy unassisted goal.
“I give them [the Minutemen] credit, they came out hard, flying around out there,” said UNH leading scorer James van Riemsdyk. “We just didn’t match their pace early on, but we definitely picked it up as the game went on.”
While shorthanded, van Riemsdyk notched the tying goal. He swiftly handled the puck past the blue line, using all of his 205 pounds to shift left around defender Danny Hobbs, ending the rush with a high wrister at 16:55 of the first.
Going into the second four-on-four, UNH quickly got a power play when Cory Quirk was put in the box for tripping only 17 seconds into the period, but the Wildcats couldn’t pull one past Meyers.
UMass had another five-on-three power play opportunity when co-captain Greg Collins was penalized for boarding at 16:25, but UNH, ranked fifth nationally on the penalty kill, killed it off.
The last 25 minutes of the game (OT included) depended on the heroics of both goaltenders.
Late in the third, van Riemsdyk dodged three Minutemen and drove to the net, but Minutemen goaltender Dan Meyers wasn’t fazed and made the stop.
Neither team was able to generate many scoring chances during the overtime.
“Sometimes low-scoring games can be as exciting as any high-scoring game,” said UMass head coach Don Cahoon. “There were points in the game where I thought we had a chance to take control, but then there were other points where we were hanging on for dear life.”
“That’s a Hockey East game; it’s a battle, both teams got a point,” said UNH Coach Dick Umile. “That’s why I don’t like a shootout, because I don’t think any team should have lost the game tonight because of a shootout.”
Cahoon added, “At the end of the game Richard and I congratulated each other and we were just happy we got out of there with a point. You play to win, but games like that you can walk away from; both teams left it on the ice.”