DURHAM, N.H. — The University of New Hampshire had a few days to celebrate being the top-ranked team in the nation for the first time in nearly six years, but No. 7 Boston University went into the Whittemore Center Thursday night determined to spoil the party.
And spoil the party, the Terriers did. BU took a 3-0 lead, and hung on to win, 3-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,501.
It was the first home loss of the season for UNH (11-2-2, 8-2-1 Hockey East).
In a seven-day span, BU (9-5-0, 7-4-0) has beaten two No. 1-ranked teams in Boston College and UNH.
“I told my team [last] Thursday, ‘We have a real good opportunity here. We have BC, and if you beat them, you can make UNH the No. 1 team in the nation, and then you’ll have a chance to beat them,’ ’’ said BU coach Jack Parker. “This team is really a good team, this UNH team, so for us to come up here and get a W, it’s really good for our confidence.’’
Although BU has lost two of three to both BC and UNH this season, the last week has proven to be an optimistic measure of the team’s progress.
“It says something that we didn’t drop three to UNH,’’ said Parker, whose team faces Maine Saturday in the final game before the semester recess. “It says something that we were able to get one at home against BC. We’re a young team. We’re young in the goal, we have two freshman defensemen, we’ve got a bunch of freshman forwards playing, we’ve got key sophomores really playing well for us. This team is playing certainly up to their capabilities and maybe a little above it right now given the lack of experience. We just closed the gap a little bit points-wise and we certainly closed the gap a little bit in our minds as far as who we think we are vis a vis those two teams.’’
BU nullified the crowd support early, taking a 1-0 lead just 4:39 into the action. Cason Hohmann found freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk at the left point. Grzelcyk took a shot and senior left wing Wade Megan was in front for the rebound, scoring his ninth goal of the season.
The Terriers added a pair of goals in the second period. At 4:01, junior right wing Sahir Gill, who has been snakebitten, potted his second of the season when he went in alone and beat Casey DeSmith (24 saves).
BU’s third goal came at 8:03, generated by the play of three rookies. Wesley Myron won a faceoff in the right circle. Ahti Oksanen then teed up a slapper, but it missed the net and caromed off the glass. The puck bounced out to Sam Kurker, who got little on the shot from the slot. But somehow it threaded its way through a sea of bodies and past DeSmith.
UNH’s top scorer, junior center Kevin Goumas, put the Wildcats on the board at 14:05 during a power play. Goumas, who was along the right goal line, had a tough angle but made a perfect shot to beat Matt O’Connor (31 saves).
The Wildcats seized the momentum and put substantial pressure on BU for the rest of the period, but at the start of the third, the Terriers came out flying.
UNH turned the tables, though, midway through the period and closed to within a goal at 11:54 on a shot from the left circle by senior right wing John Henrion, making it 3-2.
“We came up short,’’ said UNH coach Dick Umile, whose team was 1 for 9 on the power play in the final game before the semester break. “Obviously, spotting BU three goals is not a good formula. The guys battled the second and third periods and competed. We just came up short. We had our chances on the power play. We could have done a better job there, obviously. But it’s still a good first half. We’ve just got to trust each other over the break here and come back and start off the second half like we started off the first half.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.