DURHAM — The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team squandered a two-goal lead in its 6-3 loss to No. 12 Northeastern at the Whittemore Center but still clinched a Hockey East playoff spot Friday night.
Boston University’s 1-0 overtime win at Vermont sent the Wildcats (11-11-8, 7-8-5 Hockey East) into the league tournament and eliminated the Catamounts from postseason contention. The top eight teams in the 11-team league qualify for the playoffs.
The Huskies (20-9-1, 12-7-1) scored almost every possible way on UNH over the final 12:46 of the second period to erase a 3-1 deficit and take a 4-3 advantage into the second intermission.
Tallies from Marcus Vela and Brendan van Riemsdyk, who finished with two goals and an assist, over the opening 5:01 of the second period gave the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.
The rest of the middle frame belonged to Northeastern.
Senior forward Liam Pecararo, who had a hat trick, recorded both a power-play and even-strength goal and teammate Matt Filipe scored while Northeastern was short-handed over the last 12:46 of the second period to create the Huskies’ 4-3 lead.
“I just think that we saw it’s 3-1 and there’s a sense of urgency,” Huskies coach Jim Madigan said. “We understand how big the game is for us and obviously for UNH. I think we realized, hey, we’ve got to pick up our socks here. Some of the older guys started responding, we had a couple of good shifts and the special teams were really good.”
Pecararo scored his first goal via a rebound shot on the power play 7:14 into the second to pull Northeastern within one. He then went forehand to backhand on goalie Mike Robinson (28 saves) with 1:04 remaining before the second intermission to make it 4-3 Huskies.
While short-handed, the Huskies caused a turnover in the UNH zone, which led to Filipe’s goal from the slot with 3:45 left in the period that knotted the score at 3-3.
Northeastern took a 5-3 lead on Ryan Shea’s one-timer from the left point that came with 4:28 remaining. Pecararo capped the game’s scoring with his empty-net goal, which came with 1:29 left. UNH pulled Robinson for the extra skater with about 2:22 remaining.
“They took it to us the second half of the game,” UNH coach Mike Souza said of the Huskies. “They’re an NCAA tournament team. They’re well coached. They’ve got a lot of skill. They’ve got a great goalie. And you can’t beat yourself against those types of teams and we did that (Friday).”
UNH went 0-for-2 on the power play and 2-for-4 on the penalty kill. The Wildcats are now 0-for-14 on the power play over their last five games.
“One of our keys is special teams execution going into the game,” Souza said. “We know they’re good on their special teams....It’s frustrating.”
First-period goals from van Riemsdyk and Northeastern junior Jeremy Davies created a 1-1 deadlock after the opening 20 minutes.
The Wildcats opened the game’s scoring with 9:35 left in the opening frame. Eric MacAdams created a turnover in the Huskies’ zone and van Riemsdyk scooped up the loose puck before beating Northeastern goaltender Cayden Primeau (33 saves) with a high shot in front.
The Huskies and UNH play again tonight at 7 in Durham.
“It just seemed like every time we got something going, we shot ourselves in the foot with bad mistakes,” van Riemsdyk said. “And you can’t do that against a team that talented because what just happened will happen most of the time.”