PROVIDENCE, R.I. – What could have been a frustrating loss for the University of New Hampshire turned into a memorable victory Friday night at No. 11 Providence College in a Hockey East game.
After the Wildcats blew a 3-0 lead, Angus Crookshank scored his second goal of the game with 3:45 left in regulation to give his team a 4-3 victory. The victory gave UNH (12-8-1, 6-5-0) a 4-1-0 record against nationally ranked teams.
“We get ‘jacked’ the same for every game, whether it’s a nationally ranked team or not,” Crookshank said of his team’s ability to beat the best. “That’s something we’ve been trying to work on as well. We’ve gotten better as of late. We’ve tried to be more consistent with our efforts.
“I think we’ve done a better job the second half of the year. We’ve got to keep going the rest of the year.”
Crookshank’s game winner (his 12th goal of the season) came on a one-timer that sailed inside the right post after a pass from Charlie Kelleher.
“Charlie made a great pass to me and I tried to get it off as quick as possible and I was lucky to hit my spot,” Crookshank said.
UNH coach Mike Souza smothered Crookshank with praise, not only for his play in this game but for the season as a whole.
“Every coach wants a kid like him,” said Souza, whose team goes against Providence again tonight (7 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center. “He loves the game. He’s at the rink all the time. He’s a bright young man. He wants to be a pro. He wants to be a great student. He wants to be excellent at everything he does.
“We’re very fortunate to have him as part of our program.”
The Wildcats exploded onto the ice in the first period when they bolted to a 3-0 lead.
Kohei Sato ignited that explosion by scoring 54 seconds after the opening faceoff when he snapped home a wrist shot from the slot after a pass from Liam Blackburn.
The Wildcats fanned on their best scoring opportunity of the period when Providence’s Jamie Englebert was assessed a five-minute major (along with a game misconduct) for hitting from behind. But the Wildcats could muster only two shots during that power play.
When the teams resumed skating at even strength, UNH went ahead 2-0 at 15:23.
Jackson Pierson’s shot was blocked by goalie Michael Lackey (24 saves) but Crookshank buried the rebound.
Then, with 1:21 left in the period, Max Gildon beat Lackey with a slap shot from the left point.
Providence (13-6-5, 7-5-2) commenced play ranked eighth in the nation on the power play.
The Friars showed why they’ve earned that ranking when they scored two power-play goals in the second period, slicing their deficit to 3-2.
With Sato in the box for roughing, Vimal Sukumaran beat Bedford’s Mike Robinson (28 saves) with a slap shot at 9:01.
Parker Ford emulated Sukumaran at 15:22 when he drilled a shot that sailed in just under the crossbar.
The Wildcats got off on the wrong skate in the third period when an apparent goal by Gildon, during a scrum in front of the net, was disallowed after a lengthy review by the officials.
That proved to be an unfortunate decision for the Wildcats because the Friars scored their third power-play goal of the period when Sukumaran deflected in a shot by Shane Kavanagh at 13:38, which tied the game at 3-3,
“We weren’t worried,” Crookshank said of the Wildcats’ mindset after they coughed up that 3-0 lead. “We stuck to our game plan. Obviously it’s tough blowing a three-goal lead. But our coach always talks about not getting too high or not getting too low.
“We just stuck to our game plan and we were lucky to pull it out tonight.”
As far as Souza was concerned, luck had absolutely nothing to do with this victory.
“Unfortunately we’ve been there a couple of times,” Souza said. “We had a 3-1 lead (in what proved to be a 5-4 overtime victory against Northeastern) last week. As much as you talk about seeing games through we went in after the first period and we told the team basically what would happen in the second.
“I know (coach) Nate (Leaman) has a team that’s going to push. They’re hard players and they’ve got great resolve. We talked all week about Providence being the most battle-tested team in our league. They showed that again tonight. But I was happy our guys didn’t break. We bent quite a bit but we didn’t break.”
ICE CHIPS: UNH stretched its winning streak to a season-best four games and improved its road record to 3-6-1 … This was the ‘Cats’ first road win since Oct. 25 when they edged Merrimack, 3-2.
Dartmouth 3, Clarkson 2: Tyler Campbell’s goal with 2:42 remaining broke a tie and lifted Dartmouth to a 3-2 victory over No. 7 Clarkson on Friday night at Thompson Arena in Hanover.
Campbell’s goal, his third of the season, helped the Big Green improve to 9-5-3 overall, 6-3-1 in the ECAC. Clarkson dropped to 15-4-2 overall, 9-3-0 in the league.
Collin Rutherford and Will Graber also scored for Dartmouth, which hosts St. Lawrence tonight at 7.