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February 17. 2013 8:05PM

UNH, Boston College settle for a tie

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Little got settled by a pair of Hockey East games on Sunday, but they did their share to set up a wild finish to the regular season.

No. 5-ranked New Hampshire earned a 4-4 tie at No. 4-ranked Boston College in a back-and-forth game to stay among the league leaders and split the season series with the Eagles down the middle. Each team won at home in the first two games of the series last month.

The Wildcats had lost the season series to BC the last three seasons.

"We've been in a little bit of a funk here and I think this game will hopefully propel us where we want to go," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "I do like the way we competed."

UNH is 16-8-4 overall and 11-7-3 in Hockey East.

The Wildcats have lost two and tied two of their last four games.

BC checks in at 17-8-3 and 12-7-2.

Merrimack and Providence played to a 2-2 tie in Providence to leave things jammed at the top of the standings.

Merrimack, after beating BC 2-1 late in overtime on Friday night, holds down first place.

Boston College is in second place, one point back and UNH is another point back in third. Boston University and Providence are another point back, tied for fourth, and UMass-Lowell is two points behind that.

"I think at least six of us have a realistic chance of winning the championship," said BC coach Jerry York. "With New Hampshire, we went 1-1-1. There's not much difference between the two teams."

There was no difference on Sunday.

Casey DeSmith, a sophomore from Rochester, made 22 saves for the Wildcats and two of the goals against him came on Boston College power plays.

Senior Parker Milner had 29 save for the Eagles.

Each team took its turns with the lead.

BC's Steven Whitney opened the scoring at 8:57 of the first period.

UNH defenseman Eric Knodel came to mid-ice and blasted a shot on the power play that went under Milner's glove arm and in with one minute left in the period for 1-1.

The Wildcats grabbed their first lead 34 seconds into the second period when Dan Correale beat a defender down the left boards and threw a shot in front that deflected past Milner.

"The first two goals, I guess you could say were lucky bounces that went our way," said UNH sophomore Grayson Downing. "It's nice, especially when in the last couple games it seemed everything was going off us and in our own net."

That UNH lead lasted for five minutes before BC defenseman Michael Matheson scored a back-door goal, the first of two Eagle power-play tallies in the period.

Patrick Mullane got the next power play goal with a shot on a rebound and it was 3-2 with 4:17 left in the period.

The Wildcats took the lead again with two goals in the first eight minutes of the third period.

Downing picked up a loose puck deep and circled the net for a wraparound goal 1:15 into the period.

Matt Willows put UNH up 4-3 at 7:54 when he tucked in the rebound of a Brett Pesce shot.

The lead lasted all of seven seconds.

The Eagles went the other way off the faceoff and Bill Arnold put a backhander past DeSmith.

"Unfortunately they came right back after we took the lead," Umile said. "That was a heck of a shot and a bang-bang play."

The Wildcats gave up two power-play goals for the second time in two games, but also killed off a penalty that started with 1:44 left in the third period and carried over into overtime.

"That was huge," Umile said. "The guys did a great job playing it and didn't give them any looks on the power play at the end."

The Wildcats pressured the Eagles and Milner in the last minute of OT, but could not get another puck past him.

"It obviously would have been nice to get one there and it's disappointing when you don't," Downing said. "But the one point is better than none."

Now it's on to Vermont and a pair of games next weekend.

alessels@unionleader.com


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