College hockey: UNH gets two huge points
DURHAM — Senior forward Kevin McCarey's shot from center ice toward a wide-open net in the closing seconds caromed off the left post and crossed the crease and slid harmlessly away.
“Unlucky bounce, I guess,” McCarey said later. “It would have been nice to end my career at the Whit like that.”
He and the rest of the University of New Hampshire seniors wrapped things up at the Whittemore Center in front of 5,692 fans on Saturday night in fine fashion as it was.
They knocked off Vermont, 3-1, on Senior Night to get at least a bit of payback for a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday night and they improved their chances to make the Hockey East playoffs in the process.
“It was good to get a win on a night like this,” said McCarey, who helped jump start his team with a second period goal that got things tied at 1-1.
The Wildcats upped their overall record to 13-15-3 and moved to 10-12-2 in Hockey East.
They are in seventh place with two weekends to go in the regular season and hit the road for their last three games. UNH trails sixth-place Providence by a point and leads Northeastern and Massachusetts, who are tied for eighth place, by four points.
The Wildcats have played one more game than UMass and Northeastern. They play the Minutemen twice next weekend in Amherst before closing the regular season with a single game at Maine on March 3.
“I think we've been playing well and our mindset has been playoff hockey the past month or so,” McCarey said. “These next two games coming up are going to be huge. Our goal is to take it game by game and try to get as many points as we can.”
They needed Saturday night's win.
“It was desperation, to be honest with you,” said forward Greg Burke of the mood before the game. “But it was a calm desperation. People weren't panicking.”
Nor were they panicking, Burke said, after UNH fell into a 1-0 hole after the first period.
“Everyone knew it wasn't over,” Burke said. “We just stuck with it.”
They proceeded to rally for a couple of second-period goals to grab the lead.
Senior linemates Mike Borisenok and McCarey teamed up for the first.
Borisenok forced the issue and stole the puck from a Vermont defender.
“That was a great forecheck,” said UNH coach Dick Umile.
Borisenok controlled the puck and quickly moved toward Vermont goalie Rob Madore. He passed across to McCarey on the back door and he knocked it into a wide-open net at 5:44 of the period.
“He did everything on that one,” McCarey said.
Burke, a junior from Lee, gave UNH its first lead of the night with a power play goal with 4:58 left in the period. The Wildcats pressured the net and John Henrion got the puck in close and fired it on net.
“It was kind of a scrum in front of the net,” Burke said. “There were a lot of bodies and the puck ended up on my stick and all I had to do was shoot it towards the net.”
Junior defenseman Connor Hardowa slid down from the left point, and one-timed a nice pass from Kevin Goumas past Madore to give UNH a little breathing room at 3-1 with 12:21 left in the third period.
Starting with just about five minutes left in the game, UNH freshman goalie Casey DeSmith of Rochester and his teammates killed off a slashing penalty on Kevin Goumas. They then held off the Catamounts again when they pulled goalie Rob Madore for an extra attacker over the last 80 seconds of the game.
Madore finished with 38 saves for the game and DeSmith had 28.
Vermont scored the only goal of the first period with three minutes to go in the frame.
Defenseman Nick Bruneteau took a shot from out front that was wide of the net and bounced out the other side and to his brother Brett, who backhanded it past DeSmith.
The Catamounts had a great opportunity at the midway point of the period when UNH's Casey Thrush was called for a major penalty and game disqualification for hitting Brett Leonard from behind. Vermont got a five-minute power play, but aggressive UNH penalty killing and a couple of DeSmith saves shut down the Catamounts.
UNH finished 1-for-3 on the power play and Vermont was 0-for-4.
“The guys came out determined to turn it around from (Friday night),” Umile said. “They competed hard and played smart and did a great job on the penalty kill.”