DURHAM — Last year, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team played through its 36-game season and never once scored a shorthanded goal.
Saturday night, the Wildcats scored a pair of shorties in a span of just over three minutes midway through the second period and those goals lifted them to an improbable 5-5 tie with No. 15 Yale at the Whittemore Center, capping off a nice day and weekend of hockey in the arena.
“Sometimes a tie feels like a win,’ said UNH coach Mike Souza after the game.
This one certainly did.
“I thought we showed incredible resiliency,” Souza said. “The guys just never gave up.”
The tie moved the Wildcats to 6-7-6 on the season overall and closed out the nonconference portion of their schedule.
They are 2-4-3 in Hockey East contests and have nothing but league games remaining, starting at Boston University on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
UNH plays Boston College, which is tied for the lead in the Hockey East standings, back at the Whittemore Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Against Yale, the Wildcats were down 3-0 after one period and 4-0 early in the second before rallying. It was their ninth overtime game and sixth tie of the season.
They also came from behind on Friday night on the way to a 2-1 overtime win over Merrimack.
To add to the Whittemore Center fun, the UNH women rode a pair of late goals by Taylor Wenczkowski, a junior forward from Rochester, to a 3-2 win over No. 10 Boston College on Saturday afternoon. Deering’s Jenna Rheault scored the other UNH goal.
It was the first game back after a holiday break for the Wildcats women and they ran their unbeaten streak to 6-0-2 in their last eight games.
Junior forward Brendan van Riemsdyk and junior defenseman Anthony Wyse had the shorthanded goals and were a couple of the standouts in the men’s comeback.
Van Riemsdyk got the rally started with a power-play goal at 5:22 of the second period that cut Yale’s lead to 4-1.
Wyse followed with a shorthanded goal, a wrist shot to the top left corner of the net, with an assist from Marcus Vela, for 4-2 at 9:43.
Yale got that one back to make it 5-2 at 12:12.
Forty-five seconds later, van Riemsdyk got UNH’s second shorthanded goal in a span of 3:14 with junior Liam Blackburn and Wyse assisting and it was 5-3 with just over seven minutes left in the second period.
Freshman Eric Esposito and junior Justin Fregona scored UNH goals to tie it in the third period.
And oh yes, Yale’s opening goal of the second period was scored shorthanded as well.
“It was kind of a crazy game with the shorthanded goals,” Souza said. “It was ugly.”
Yale, Souza said, is always a threat to score when it’s shorthanded.
“It was funny how that worked out for us,” he said. “We never tell our guys don’t go for an opportunity if you have it. But obviously your first responsibility is to kill the penalty. You may be cheating a little more on the offensive side when the deficit is as deep as it was tonight.”
It was the first goal of the season for Wyse, who also had two assists for a career-high three-point night. He came into the game with two assists total through the first 18 games of the year and is an anchor on defense.
With sophomore Max Gildon, an offensive defenseman, out for the second game in row with an injury, Wyse took on more of those duties, too.
“Anthony’s a big kid and he’s really athletic and he skates really well for his size,” Souza said. “He logs so many minutes for us. He’s starting to open some people’s eyes, and rightfully so.”
Van Riemsdyk had the first two-goal game of his career and added his second shorthanded goal of the season to go with one he scored at Providence on Nov. 30 that earned a 1-1 tie.
“Brendan’s been really solid for us and he plays the game the right way all the time and you get rewarded for that,” Souza said. “He’s incredibly effective on the penalty kill for us, I was happy for him tonight.”
Van Riemsdyk’s two shorthanded goals this season match what any Wildcat has had since Kevin Goumas and Matt Willows each had a pair during the 2013-14 season.
UNH’s three shorties thus far are as many as any season since 2013-14, when the team had seven total. The Wildcats also scored three shorthanded goals in the 2016-17 season.
Mike Robinson, a sophomore out of Bedford, replaced freshman Ty Taylor in net early in the second period and made 13 saves and allowed one goal the rest of the way.
Robinson is now third in Hockey East with a 2.10 goals-against average and is fourth in save percentage at .926.