College Hockey: Northeastern wins in OT, forces Game 3 with UNH
The University of New Hampshire dodged one bullet from Northeastern freshman Mike Szmatula.
The Wildcats weren't able to dodge another.
Szmatula and his teammates charged the UNH net and he scored 3:39 into overtime to lift the Huskies to a 5-4 win in front of 3,331 at the Whittemore Center on Saturday night.
"I just drove the net and I think it hit off my head and then my body," Szmatula said. "I don't know. I'm just happy it went in."
No. 4 New Hampshire and No. 5 Northeastern play a rubber match Sunday at 4:30 at the Whit to determine a winner of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series. The winner moves on to the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden in Boston on Friday.
The season ends for the losing team.
UNH fell to 20-17-1. Northeastern improved to 19-13-4.
Casey DeSmith, the junior from Rochester, made 27 saves for the Wildcats.
Clay Witt had 31 for Northeastern.
The Wildcats caught a break at the exact midway point of the third period. Szmatula finished off a Huskies' rush to the UNH net for a goal that appeared to give them a 5-4 lead.
But the play was reviewed by the referees and the ruling was that DeSmith was interfered with and could not make a play.
The winning goal was reviewed, too. This one counted.
"They beat us at the net front," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "I thought we did some decent things. But we didn't play well at the net front. I'll give credit to them. They got to the net and found loose pucks and got them behind us."
For the second night in a row, the teams went into the third period tied.
The route they took to get there was much different Saturday from Friday.
Then it was 0-0.
Saturday it was 4-4 because the Wildcats were unable to hold onto the 4-2 lead they held with less than four minutes left in the second period.
"We had it and we gave it up," Umile said. "I'm not pleased with that."
UNH got first-period goals from junior Grayson Downing and senior Nick Sorkin - sandwiching a score by Northeastern's Ryan Belonger - to grab a 2-1 lead.
Downing, just as a UNH power play ended, took a shot from above the right faceoff dot that went along the ice and eluded Witt for 1-0 at 11:35 of the period.
Belonger tied it with 5:46 left in the period.
Sorkin finished off a nice piece of passing by the Wildcats for 2-1 with 1:33 left in the period. Matt Willows got the puck ahead to Kevin Goumas behind the net and he found Sorkin all alone in front.
UNH had 1:34 of a two-man advantage to open the second period, but the opportunity soon turned sour.
The Wildcats had a couple of scoring chances on the first part of the power play.
As the first penalty ended, Matt Benning came out of the penalty box and headed quickly to the UNH net. Goumas caught up to him, but was called for hooking and Northeastern was awarded a penalty shot.
Kevin Roy skated in on DeSmith with the puck, got him to drop down, and lifted the puck over him and it was 2-2 at the 1:43 mark of the period.
"That was huge for them," said UNH senior defenseman Eric Knodel. "The (power play) was something we needed to capitalize on and we weren't able to. That was a big turning point in the game."
The Wildcats came right back with a pair of goals for a 4-2 lead.
Freshman Tyler Kelleher got the first from in tight with Downing and Dalton Speelman assisting at 6:02.
Senior defenseman Justin Agosta came off the bench and across the blueline to a loose puck that had come off the boards and blasted it past Witt and it was 4-2 with 8:25 left in the period.
By the time the period ended, it was tied again.
Colton Saucerman stayed with a rebound in close and knocked it past DeSmith with 3:31 left in the period for a 4-3 advantage.
Roy scored his second of the game, in a scramble in front of DeSmith, with just 6.6 seconds to go before the break.
They played a scoreless third period and soon into overtime, Szmatula ended it.
Now they'll settle it all in a Game 3.
- - - - - - - -
Notre Dame plays at Boston College and Vermont plays at UMass-Lowell in Game 3s on Sunday. BC knotted its series with Notre Dame with a 4-2 win on Saturday and Vermont got even with a 3-2 win at Lowell.