March 28, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

LeBlanc's Winner Secures Stirring UNH Win

by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Reporter

UNH forward Mike Sislo reacts to a goal. (photos: Josh Gibney)

UNH forward Mike Sislo reacts to a goal. (photos: Josh Gibney)

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Audio Spotlight

UNH F Peter LeBlanc on game-winning OT goal againsUNH F Peter LeBlanc on game-winning OT goal agains
UNH's Peter LeBlanc talks to Mike Machnik of CHN about his game-winning goal in overtime against North Dakota in the NCAA Northeast Regional.

UNH F Thomas Fortney on tying goal against North DUNH F Thomas Fortney on tying goal against North D
UNH's Thomas Fortney talks with CHN's Mike Machnik about his game-tying goal with 0:00.1 left against North Dakota in the Northeast Regional.

UNH Coach Dick Umile after OT winUNH Coach Dick Umile after OT win
UNH Coach Dick Umile talks with CHN's Mike Machnik following the Wildcats' 6-5 OT win in the 2009 Northeast Regional on March 28, 2009.

UNH Radio Hilights of NCAA WinUNH Radio Hilights of NCAA Win
New Hampshire defeated North Dakota, 6-5, in a wild game that was tied with 0.1 left in regulation, and won in OT.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — On Friday night, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs tied their game against the Princeton Tigers with 0.8 seconds left in regulation to set up an amazing overtime victory. On Saturday afternoon, as this wild NCAA tournament continues, the New Hampshire Wildcats raised the bar to another level, when senior Thomas Fortney tied up his team's contest against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux at 5-5 with a mere tenth of a second remaining.

Junior Peter LeBlanc made sure the last-second tally wasn't wasted when he one-timed a Jerry Pollastrone pass into the right side of the net just 45 seconds into overtime to send UNH to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.

"Most of the previous years, we've lost out, and we've lost out in some tough games," UNH coach Dick Umile said. "It's not easy, and I know how [UND coach Dave Hakstol] feels. That's a tough loss ... You get into these games and you play to give yourself an opportunity to win. Tonight, we gave ourselves an opportunity to win and pulled it out."

The Wildcats found themselves on the wrong side of a back-and-forth game as the clock wound its way toward the end of regulation. But after sustaining pressure in the offensive zone for nearly a full minute, UNH forced the Sioux to ice the puck with 18 seconds left.

Hakstol called a timeout in order to give his five guys on the ice a breather. Despite winning the ensuing faceoff, his defensemen were unable to clear the zone until one of the Sioux finally cleared it out from the front of the net. Unfortunately for UND, the puck went over the glass, giving UNH one last chance with 5.7 ticks to go.

Fortney, a right-handed shot, won the draw back to senior defenseman Kevin Kapstad at the right point. He sent the puck over to sophomore Mike Sislo at the top of the left circle for a one-timer that went just wide. The carom off the end boards came to Pollastrone at the right of the net, and the senior quickly tapped it to the front of the net. Fortney was set up at the top of the crease and hammered it past freshman goalie Brad Eidsness' blocker, sending the large contingent of blue-and-white-clad UNH fans into a frenzy.

"It actually worked out the way we drew it up," Fortney said of the final faceoff. "I went out to take the draw with my backhand and hit it back to [Kapstad] and then over to Sislo. He ended up shooting it wide, and then [Pollastrone] got it back behind the net and we put it in with point-one second left."

The Wildcats carried the momentum into the extra session, taking advantage of the teams' first line changes. As the Sioux tried to change up their defenders, UNH got the puck up to Pollastrone on the left wing, and he and LeBlanc caught North Dakota with just one defender back. The defender shaded to Pollastrone's side, so he saucered the rubber into the middle of the ice for LeBlanc. The Hamilton, Ontario native went down to one knee and ripped a shot past a sliding Eidsness for the game-winner.

"I had just stepped off the bench," LeBlanc said. "Someone threw it in to Pollastrone and he had room. I just tried to get open for him, and he gave me a great pass. I actually thought my stick broke on my shot, so I was real surprised when I saw it in the net, and that I didn't flub it."

The win marks the Wildcats' first NCAA Tournament victory in Manchester's Verizon Wireless Arena, as the hosts lost in the opening round in the previous two regionals held there in 2004 and 2007.

"We love playing here," Umile said. "The people here at the Verizon and the people here in Manchester treat us tremendously . . . The university's done a great job to get the regionals here, and Manchester and New Hampshire supported it."

It also marks this year's senior class' first trip to the national quarterfinals. The group of six had previously been 0-3 in the NCAA Tournament with losses to Michigan State in 2006, Miami in 2007 and Notre Dame in 2008.

"It's a great feeling," Fortney said of the seniors' first tournament win. "That was our goal this year, was to get here and win a game. We just want to keep it going and make it to D.C."

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