New Hampshire Can't Cash In On Chances
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Reporter
MANCHESTER, N.H. As the New Hampshire Wildcats learned the hard way on Sunday night, hockey truly is a game of inches. Whether it was skill on the part of the Boston University Terriers or just a lack of luck for UNH, the Wildcats found themselves coming up inches short on numerous scoring chances throughout the final game of the Northeast Regional.
The close calls started just over a minute into the game. UNH's top line of sophomores James van Riemsdyk and Mike Sislo and senior Jerry Pollastrone found itself on a 3-on-1. Van Riemsdyk stormed down the right side and snapped a shot that appeared to be laser-guided to the top left corner, but after zipping past freshman goalie Kieran Millan's right arm, the puck deflected off the knob of his stick and went wide.
In the 10th minute of the game, junior forward Bobby Butler had two chances to jam a rebound inside a post, but both times, Millan was able to jam his skate against the post at the last second and make the save.
Three minutes later, senior Greg Collins centered a pass for junior Nick Krates on another odd-man rush, but a charging Nick Bonino came sliding in at the last second to knock the puck away.
The inability to cash in on these, and other odd-man rushes, spelled trouble for UNH's upset hopes. Everywhere you looked, No. 1 seeds were getting knocked off, and the other three Frozen Four teams all had last week off. New Hampshire had last week off as well, thanks to losing in the Hockey East quarterfinals, just like Vermont. But it wasn't to be for the Wildcats.
"Our defensemen got caught in a couple times, and all of a sudden they'd go on a 2-on-1 the other way," BU coach Jack Parker said. "We got some breaks on those, obviously, that they didn't score. I think this is historically the best initial rush team in our league. They know how to turn the puck up and get going as well as anybody. And they certainly did that to us an awful lot tonight."
Unfortunately for UNH, many of these breaks ended with the puck sliding just past the outstretched stick of the Wildcat that the pass was intended for. Freshman Blake Kessel just missed a tip on a Pollastrone centering pass 4:40 in the third. Four minutes later, junior Peter LeBlanc's backhanded pass across the crease skidded inches in front of Collins" stick. Sophomore Phil DeSimone found a saucer pass from classmate Paul Thompson glide just out his reach a few minutes later.
But the player punished most by the close-call commotion was Sislo. Up a man with just over 14 minutes left, the Superior, Wis., native stepped into the left faceoff circle and ripped a wrister that beat Millan, but clanged off the left post. Then, inside the five-minute mark, the sophomore took a 2-on-1 pass from Pollastrone and snapped a shot toward the top right corner, but Millan came up with the save of the night, raising his glove to snag the rubber at the last possible moment.
After the Wildcats gave it everything they had only to come up short all night, it was only fitting that the Terriers' winning goal was the final tough-luck break in UNH's season. With under 20 seconds left in the game and BU on a power play, Pollastrone dove into the crease to break up a backdoor pass to Colin Wilson. But Pollastrone's lay-it-on-the-line effort resulted in Regional MVP Jason Lawrence's pass bouncing off his left forearm and into his own net.
"It is frustrating [to get so many close chances]," UNH coach Dick Umile said. "I thought the team played great. We had our chances to win it, whether it went off the pipe or what. Millan played well. You don't get here without great goaltending, and he's played well, and Brian Foster's played well for us. We had our chances to win it, but we didn't finish it.
"It was pretty obvious that it wasn"t from a lack of effort. I thought these guys were a determined group. I honestly believed they were destined to get [to the Frozen Four]. I've said this before, but we've been involved in some crazy bounces. We got back late, they got to the net, and it bounced off us and went in. That's a tough way to lose it with 14 seconds left."