UNH, BC skaters face off today
DURHAM - Now they're both chasing first place.
The No. 5-ranked University of New Hampshire hockey team takes on No. 4 Boston College in Conte Forum this afternoon at 4 p.m., and the target for each team has changed a little.
Merrimack College came from behind to beat BC, 2-1, on a goal with just 31 seconds left in overtime on Friday night at Merrimack. The Warriors slipped by the Eagles into first place in Hockey East with the win.
Merrimack leads BC by a point, with New Hampshire in third place, another point back.
The Wildcats had a rough outing the last time at BC, losing 5-2 on Jan 11.
"We came out flat, and they really took it to us," said Casey DeSmith of Rochester, UNH's sophomore goalie . "This will be hopefully a little of revenge time down there, and we'll make it a close game and hopefully take the season series from them, which is always tough to do."
UNH scored first in that game, but the Eagles answered with five straight goals and led 5-1 after two periods.
Boston College, much like UNH, has struggled to get wins in the second half of the season, thus tightening up the top of the Hockey East standings.
The Eagles improved to 10-2-1 in the league when they won that 5-2 game. The Wildcats rebounded the next night for a 2-1 win in Durham. BC is 2-5-0 in Hockey East since losing to UNH, though it did defeat Harvard and Northeastern in winning its fourth straight Beanpot earlier this month.
The Wildcats went 8-1-1 in their first 10 league games. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10.
UNH coach Dick Umile likes the way his team has been playing the last few games, but it has little to show for it. The Wildcats lost at Providence, 1-0, on Wednesday, tied the Friars, 3-3, in Durham last Sunday and fell to Merrimack, 4-1, at home in the game before that.
"Scoring has been an issue; there's no doubt about it," Umile said. "We're struggling to score goals. We're playing hard, but pucks are not going in."
UNH takes a 16-8-3 overall record and 11-7-2 mark in Hockey East into today's game. Five of the seven league losses have been by one goal.
BC is 17-8-2 overall and 12-7-1 in Hockey East.
First place may be out of reach for the Eagles and Wildcats today, depending on what happens in the other Hockey East game on the schedule.
Merrimack is at Providence, also at 4.
Providence has improved its lot in the league, too, and is a point behind UNH and two points behind BC in the standings.
After today, UNH has six games left, with two at Vermont next week and then home series against Massachusetts and Maine to close out the regular season.
"It's not really panic time," DeSmith said. "We know what we have to do. If we play consistently like we have been these last couple of games I think we'll be able to win several games going forward."
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BC sophomore Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and two assists to lead his team to the 5-2 win over UNH on Jan. 11. He was held scoreless in the 2-1 loss the next night.
Gaudreau leads Hockey East in scoring with 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points, and senior Steven Whitney leads the league in goals at 18-14-32.
DeSmith is third in the league in both save percentage (.928) and goals-against average (2.16). BC senior Parker Milner is fifth in save percentage (.919) and gaa (2.47).
Junior Kevin Goumas continues to lead the Wildcats in scoring at 10-22-32, but he has gone six games without a goal and has only two assists in that stretch.