His first try at a hat trick came on a penalty shot at 12:26 of the third period.
But, since University of New Hampshire right wing Matt Willows hadn’t taken one since he was playing mites, Boston University goaltender Sean Maguire made the easy save.
That didn’t stop Willows, however. The junior potted his third goal into an empty net at 18:43, clinching the 3-1 win for the Wildcats Monday afternoon in front of 3,533 at Agganis Arena. The Hockey East game originally was scheduled for Saturday night but was postponed because of inclement weather.
Willows, whose other career hat trick came Jan. 4 against Nebraska-Omaha, had five goals in the two-game sweep of the Terriers and has 18 for the season.
“I didn’t know what I was doing going down,’’ said Willows of the penalty shot. “I went with something and it didn’t work. After practice, we joke around and we do some shots and work on it but it’s my first in a while.’’
UNH coach Dick Umile was very pleased by his team’s play, particularly after not loving Friday night’s outing despite the 4-3 win.
“We played well in the first period [Friday] and jumped out to a 3-0 lead,’’ said Umile. “BU battled back. They outplayed us the second half of the game.
“Tonight, I thought we were determined to play a 60-minute hockey game and pay attention to detail. We needed to have a team effort; no way you’re going to win in this league if you don’t play solid as a team and that’s what [we] did tonight . . . We were very displeased with our play the other night, taking nothing against BU. We wanted to come out and play well as a team and tonight we did it.’’
There’s no question the first period belonged to the Wildcats (18-15-1, 10-8-0), who outshot BU by a 13-4 margin.
UNH had the Terriers (8-18-4, 3-10-3) pinned in their own end for most of the opening frame. However, BU scored first, on just its second shot. Freshman left wing Brendan Collier, who had three assists in his first 23 contests, potted his first goal when he wristed a shot from the right circle that beat junior goaltender Casey DeSmith under the arm at 7:40.
UNH answered at 12:37 when senior center Kevin Goumas centered a pass to Willows in the right circle. Willows skated to the net and beat Maguire on a backhand shot to make it 1-1.
Willows struck again at 11:49 of the second, this time during a shorthanded situation. Willows intercepted a BU pass and raced in alone on a breakaway. He beat Maguire with a shot over the glove to put the visitors on top, 2-1.
His third one was the icing on the cake.
“It always feels good to get goals,’’ said Willows. “Getting goals is probably the best feeling in the world. Obviously, getting a couple of goals [Friday], you come in with momentum tonight, but it’s a team effort. That was one of the best games we’ve played all year.’’
For BU coach David Quinn, it was a huge disappointment, particularly the way his top forwards failed to perform.
“Well, obviously the better team won,’’ said Quinn. “The team that was the hungrier team won. They won every one-on-one battle. They looked like they had an extra guy on the ice every time we were out there. They were just all over us and we just had no answer. I thought our top players let us down. You can’t take nights off and we took a night off tonight, which we haven’t been doing lately.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.