Third-Period Comeback Falls Short as UNH Tops Men’s Hockey in OT

By Matt Neiser

DURHAM, New Hampshire — “That effort tonight was unacceptable.”

A clearly irritated Jim Madigan was none too happy with his team postgame, and for good reason. His Northeastern men’s hockey squad had just finished a Hockey East duel with New Hampshire in Durham, and suffice to say it certainly wasn’t their best performance of the season. Despite rallying to tie the game twice in the third period, the Huskies could not cap off the comeback as the Wildcats scored in overtime to claim a 5–4 victory.

Right from the start, Northeastern (13–6–2, 7–5–1 HEA) looked off their game. New Hampshire (11–8–1, 5–5–0 HEA) outplayed the away squad throughout the first period, outshooting them 11–6. The Huskies almost escaped the period unscathed, but a Wildcats goal with less than three minutes to go ensured that the better team went into the intermission with the lead. A flubbed power play one-timer from a teammate fell right to the feet of Eric MacAdams, who slotted home the puck to open the scoring.

If the energy in the first period was a little weird, the energy in the second was downright strange. The middle frame included eight penalties, four for each side, keeping either team from getting into any real rhythm. One of those eight penalties allowed Northeastern to tie the game a little under halfway through the period, as Grant Jozefek tucked home a rebound in front of the net on the man advantage.

The deadlock was short-lived, however, as a Patrick Grasso goal 54 seconds later put New Hampshire back in front.

Madigan said after the game that the officials apologized to him for missing a hitting to the head penalty against Northeastern in the play leading up to the goal. The officials went to video review to check the goal, which allowed them to see the missed call after the fact. “It resulted in a goal then penalty on us . . . so a two-goal swing against us,” Madigan said, putting extra emphasis on the last two words.

The second goal Madigan referred to happened after a wild flurry two minutes later, allowing the Wildcats to extend their lead. With the Huskies already on the penalty kill, freshman Jeremie Bucheler committed a tripping violation, allowing New Hampshire to clear out their goalie and create a six-on-four advantage on the delayed penalty. After moving the puck around for a solid 20–30 seconds, Angus Crookshank found an opening and scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

With 40 minutes gone, the Huskies looked dead in the water. They were thoroughly outskated in the first two periods, and a third-period comeback seemed unlikely. Defying expectations, Northeastern emerged with a renewed energy. Tyler Madden scored his 16th goal of the season less than two minutes in, and freshman Jayden Struble followed it up with a goal of his own a few minutes later to even the score.

New Hampshire quieted the run with a Kohei Sato goal at the 7:14 mark, but Matt Filipe answered just 37 seconds later to pull the Huskies back again. Neither team gained ground in the ensuing tug-of-war, sending the game to overtime.

When asked if it was a matter of effort that allowed his team to get back into the game in the third period, Madigan agreed and added that his players stuck to the game plan. “We had a lot of offensive zone possession time in there.”

The Wildcats came into the game with a nation-leading four overtime wins, and they showed why in the extra frame. Dominating much of the possession in the first half of overtime, New Hampshire eventually generated a clean chance as Liam Blackburn found Will MacKinnon streaking into the Northeastern zone down the slot. MacKinnon wasted no time, firing a one-timer past Husky goaltender Craig Pantano to win the game.

“We went into the game with a game plan and we didn’t stick to it,” Madigan lamented, adding that they didn’t play 60 minutes tonight and UNH took advantage. “If we want to get to where we need to get to as a team, we can’t be exchanging goals and giving up five goals in a game.”

Northeastern has a week off between games, with their next contest coming January 18 against UConn at Matthews Arena. Christian Skroce and Matt Cunha will call the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.

Hockey East Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

Last Season: 12–15–9 (8–10–6, eighth place), lost to UMass Amherst in HE quarterfinal

Head Coach: Mike Souza (second season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Seventh

Losses

  • D Richard Boyd
  • F Brendan Van Riemsdyk
  • F Marcus Vela
  • F Ara Nazarin
  • F Chris Miller

Additions

  • D Nolan McElhaney
  • D Kalle Eriksson
  • F Lucas Herrmann
  • F Chase Stevenson
  • F Robby Griffin
  • F Joe Hankinson

By Matthew Cunha

In his first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Mike Souza led UNH to their best win percentage (.458) since 2014–15. In the previous three years, UNH had finished 11th, 10th, and 10th in Hockey East and failed to post a win percentage above .438 under longtime coach Dick Umile.

During a stretch between December 7 and February 1, the Wildcats posted an 8–1–3 record, including a win over Boston College and a tie over 15th-ranked Miami. That run helped them sneak into the playoffs after starting the season 2–7–5. They faced off with eventual NCAA runners-up UMass Amherst and came up just short, losing to the Minutemen in a 5–4 double-overtime thriller in Game 1. They got shelled 6–0 in game 2, but nonetheless it was a positive season for coach Souza.

Last season, nine Wildcats produced more than 15 points; only three (Ara Narzarin, Marcus Vela, and Van Riemsdyk) aren’t returning. Leading the way will be senior Liam Blackburn, who produced 24 points last year. Fifth-round NHL pick and Ottawa Senators prospect Angus Crookshank tied for second in scoring with 23. Fellow rookie Jackson Pierson, third-round pick Max Gildon, and junior assistant captions Charlie Kelleher and Patrick Grasso were the other Wildcats to produce at least 15 points.

With plenty of scoring returning and Crookshank and Pierson likely to take steps forward, scoring should not be a problem this season for UNH. Losing Nazarin and Vela to graduation hurts the Wildcats’ bottom line, but there should be enough firepower to fill those gaps. The good news for Northeastern fans: Brendan Van Riemsdyk, brother of NHL player James Van Riemsdyk, left UNH to play his senior season at Northeastern. 

On the back end, UNH will be led by senior defenseman and captain Anthony Wyse. Last season, UNH allowed 2.86 goals per game, ninth in Hockey East. In the net is Mike Robinson, 86th overall pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2015. Robinson has not lived up to expectations in Wildcat land, finishing 10th in Hockey East in goals against (2.48) and save percentage (.915) last season. Seventh-round Tampa Bay prospect Ty Taylor will back him up.

Bottom Line: The Wildcats’ offensive depth should be fine, as they return six of their top nine scorers plus Angus Crookshank and Jackson Pierson. The concern for the Wildcats is the question marks on the back end, where goalie Robinson has not lived up to his potential. If he can break out as a junior, the Wildcats could be in good hands. In his second season, Souza should continue to improve with a top-five finish in Hockey East.