Prior to the start of the season, the NCAA rules committee highlighted a point of emphasis on penalties that slow the puck handler down in hopes of increasing scoring in the game. Really, all they needed to do was give every team the game plans of Boston College and New Hampshire.
The No. 5 Eagles and No. 6 Wildcats put on an offensive highlight show at Kelley Rink, complete with momentum swings, pretty transition goals and even a hat trick by a rookie, as Boston College skated to an 8-6 victory to end a three-game (0-2-1) skid.
After falling behind, 3-0, early, BC erupted for five straight goals to close the second period. UNH tried to recover in the third but BC answered the Wildcats blow-for-blow in a rematch of last year’s Hockey East semifinal, which also saw BC rally from a three-goal deficit for a win.
BC’s Jimmy Hayes notched his first career hat trick and added an assist. Brock Bradford, who scored a hat trick of his own Friday night in a 5-5 tie with Merrimack, tallied two goals and two assists for the Eagles.
James vanRiemsdyk (goal, two assists) and Mike Sislo (two goals, assist) each had three-point games for the Wildcats.
The game, which featured two of the better offense-minded teams in the nation, completely lacked defense, with both goaltenders exposed on countless occasions. UNH’s Matt DiGirolano (29 saves) gave up eight goals for the second straight night in his second and third career starts respectively. DiGirolano is substituting for the Wildcats’ top goaltender, Brian Foster, who injured his ankle on October 31 in a 4-2 victory over Northeastern and has not played since.
New Hampshire owned the first period both territorially and on the scoreboard. Peter LeBlanc wasted little time giving the Wildcats a lead, one-timing a BC turnover past Muse just 22 seconds into the game.
A power play near the midway point in the period led to UNH’s second goal. vanRiemsdyk made a nifty move around the BC defender, though he lost control of the puck approaching the net. Luckily it bounced to Sislo, who quickly fired a shot over Boston College goaltender John Muse’s (31 saves) shoulder for a 2-0 lead.
A strange play late in the period seemingly pulled BC within a goal. On a power play, Benn Ferriero’s one-timer from the point looked to beat DiGirolamo over the shoulder and under the crossbar. Immediately the water bottle moved, but the puck then appeared behind the net rather than in it. After a long discussion, referees Dave Hanson and Joe Andrews ruled that the puck never entered the goal, maintaining the Wildcats two-goal lead into the second.
According to BC head coach Jerry York, a review of the video replay after the period showed the call was correct, that the puck sailed over the crossbar and struck the water bottle before bounding past the cage.
In the second, UNH struck early to extend the lead. Sislo banged home the rebound of a Joe Charlebois shot from the point at 1:49 to extend the Wildcats lead to 3-0. It gave Sislo his first career multi-goal game.
That goal, though, was the light to an ignition switch for BC, and before the period ended the Eagles struck five consecutive times to completely turn the game around.
Hayes finished off a quick cross-crease pass from Ben Smith at 3:57. Paul Carey then finished off a Hayes bid at the left post, sliding a backhander past DiGirolamo at 7:44 to pull BC within a goal.
Just 29 seconds later BC tied the game when Bradford one-timed a Brian Gibbons shot to send the crowd of 5,417 into pandemonium.
“The biggest thing from this game wasn’t the X’s and O’s,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “It’s being down 3-0. To get ourselves off the mat and into it shows a lot about the makeup of our club.”
The offense for BC wasn’t done. At 11:43, Gibbons finished off a three-on-two and buried Bradford’s pass for the Eagles first lead, and at 17:19, Hayes knocked home his second goal of the period to cap a five-goal outburst in 13 minutes, 22 seconds, and send the Eagles to the third with a 5-3 lead.
In the third, UNH attempted to fight back, but every blow was met with one from the Eagles. After UNH pulled within a goal at 1:06 on a vanRiemsdyk one-timer, Matt Lombradi scored from a bad angle for the Eagles to extend the lead to 6-4.
Bradford, at 6:58, and UNH’s Blake Kessel, at 8:54, traded goals to keep the Eagle lead at two. UNH was unable to convert on a late power play after Andrew Orpik was whistled for tripping at 15:38.
That set up Hayes’ hat trick goal into an empty net at 19:16, to put the game away. Steve Moss scored his first career goal for the Wildcats at 19:26 to close the scoring on a night when the bulbs in the goal lights likely need to be replaced.
BC finishes the weekend with three points, despite giving up 11 goals in two games.
UNH, on the other hand, allowed 16 goals in the two games, the first time a Wildcats’ club has done so since January 15 and 18, 1991, when Boston University and Maine each handed UNH 8-4 losses. That was head coach Dick Umile’s first season behind the bench for the Wildcats.
“We didn’t go a good job defensively in our own end,” said Umile. “We’ve got work to do there. It’s a bunch of ‘almost covers’ [that cause defensive breakdown] and almost covers don’t count.”