Wildcats Reeling After Semifinal Loss to BU
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
BOSTON Before the puck dropped in the first of the two Hockey East semifinals, ninth-ranked New Hampshire had to feel good about its chances against top-seeded Boston University.
The Wildcats were 2-1 in the regular season against the Terriers. They were unbeaten in the month of March (3-0-1). UNH was even undefeated in three games on NESN, the tv network carrying the game.
[i1]The Wildcats had to feel even better when junior left winger Jacob Micflikier gave them the lead only 2:53 into the contest (his first of two goals on the night), because the Wildcats had only lost twice this season (13-2-3) when scoring first.
No one in the TD Banknorth Garden could have predicted what was going to happen next.
BU would go on to score five unanswered goals en route to a 9-2 victory over the Wildcats, and while it looks like UNH will still make the NCAA tournament, the Terriers at the very least put the thought into the heads of the UNH players that their season may be over.
Senior assistant captain Andrew Leach knew that his team had come back on the Terriers before, and he was confident that they could again. Exactly a month ago, Feb. 17, at BU's Agganis Arena, the Terriers held a 4-2 lead midway through the contest before UNH came storming back to capture a 7-4 win.
"They were up 4-1 and we said to ourselves, 'We can come back with these guys, we know we can come back with these guys,'" Leach said.
"Then they got that fifth goal right away and we were going into the third down 5-2, and they scored one right in the first minute of the third and that kind of deflated our tires."
"Hockey is a crazy sport and a three goal lead didn't scare us," said senior captain Brian Yandle. "We knew if we came out in the third period and got a quick one that it was anybody's ball game.
"Unfortunately it went the other way on us."
Going into the game, it was that one loss at the hands of the Wildcats that was the only blemish on the Terriers' record in their last 19 games (a 16-1-2 stretch), and UNH was one of only two Hockey East teams that won its season series with the Terriers (Providence being the other).
UNH is now left to wait and see what happens Sunday morning for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and while it looks like the Wildcats will be in the field of 16, no one in the locker room is taking anything for granted.
"We'll find out on Sunday," said coach Richard Umile.
"I told the team that obviously I hope our season is not over. If we play like that again then I hope it's over, but I don't think we'll play like that again and hopefully we'll have another game to play."
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Umile's players were also looking forward to Sunday morning, stressing that looking back is not an option.
"Regardless of whether we lost 3-2 or 9-2, it's still a loss," Leach said.
"We would have liked to get a win tonight, but hopefully we can look past this and try not to dwell on it as much as we can and hopefully we can get that Sunday bid."
"Hopefully things work in our favor for Sunday's selection, we're kind of hoping they'll be generous to us," said Jacob Micflikier. "If we get the chance to keep going we'll learn from this, put it behind us, and get back to where we were prior to this game."
For the next two nights at least, UNH will have to look back knowing that its season may have taken a turn for the worse.
"We're just hoping that some things happen and that we are able to get in, until then we can't do anything about it," said Yandle.
"We blew our opportunity to have a good chance at being in the NCAAs, so it's tough."
Daniel Winnik was confident that his team would be playing somewhere next weekend. "You just got to forget about it, have a good week in practice and look forward to the next weekend."