DURHAM, N.H. – Justin Agosta (East Meadow, N.Y.) and Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) both recorded a goal and an assist, but the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team was upended 5-4 in overtime by 14th-ranked Northeastern University at the Whittemore Center on Saturday night.
The Hockey East best-of-three quarterfinal series is tied 1-1 and the decisive Game 3 is March 16 (4:30 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center
UNH, the tourney' fourth seed, is now 20-16-1 while fifth-seeded NU, which lost 1-0 Friday, improved to 18-13-4.
Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.) and Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.) were UNH's other goal scorers. Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) made 28 saves, including 11 in the third period and two in the sudden-death extra session.
Kevin Roy (2g), Colt Saucerman (1g, 1a) and Braden Pimm (2a) recorded multiple points for the Huskies. Clay Witt was credited with 15 of his 31 saves in the first period as well as one in OT.
Northeastern, which trailed 4-2 with 25 minutes left in regulation, completed its comeback when Mike Szmatula scored his 19th goal of the season at 3:39 of overtime. Pimm's initial shot from the slot was stopped by DeSmith. The puck squirted out toward the left post and the charging Pimm flipped a high shot that deflected off Szmatula, who was standing in the crease, into the net for the game-winning goal.
UNH struck first at 11:35 of the first period – at the exact time NU's penalty for tripping – to take a 1-0 lead when Downing blasted a slap shot from the right point that ricocheted off a Huskies' stick in the slot and bounced between Witt's legs. Agosta set up the tally with a pass across the blue line.
Northeastern tied the score, 1-1, at 14:14 as Ryan Belonger corralled a loose puck off a UNH player's skate, turned and fired a shot under the crossbar from the slot. Pimm was credited with an assist.
The Wildcats regained the lead, 2-1, at 18:27 of the first period. Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) initiated the scoring sequence with a pass from the right half-boards behind the net. Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) snapped the puck to the slot and Sorkin one-timed a high shot into the goal.
NU was whistled for holding at 19:33 and slashing at 19:56 to give the 'Cats a two-skater advantage for 94 seconds at the start of the second stanza but the visitors leveled the score, 2-2, at 1:43 when Roy scored on a penalty shot. The Huskies were awarded the scoring opportunity when Matt Benning was pulled down from behind on a shorthanded breakaway and Roy converted the chance as he deked DeSmith numerous times before finally pulling the puck to the left post and lifting a high shot into the net.
UNH responded with consecutive goals at 6:02 and 11:35 to build a 4-2 advantage. Kelleher one-timed a shot from the slot into the upper-right corner to put the Wildcats back in front. Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.), with the centering pass from behind the net, and Downing set up the goal. Agosta extended the lead to two goals as he intercepted a clearing attempt on the right half-boards and fired a rising shot inside the near post.
The Huskies rallied to tie the score, 4-4, on goals at 16:29 and 19:53 of the second period. Saucerman's initial shot from the right circle was stopped by DeSmith, but Saucerman continued toward the top of the crease and buried the rebound to trim the deficit to one goal. Mike McCurtry earned an assist with his pass from the left wing to Saucerman. NU leveled the score with seven seconds remaining in the middle frame when Roy scored off Saucerman's rebound at the top of the crease. John Stevens was also credited with an assist.
In the ninth minute of the scoreless third period, UNH generated a 3-on-1 rush led by Willows on the right wing and his slapper from the circle was knocked aside by Witt's blocker.
Northeastern appeared to take a 5-4 lead at 10:00 as DeSmith denied both Pimm and McMurtry but Mike Szmatula jammed the puck into the cage. After a review by the officials, it was deemed that the NU skaters in the crease inhibited DeSmith from continuing play and the goal was waved off.
In the 12th minute, a New Hampshire turnover deep in the defensive zone led to Szmatula gaining possession in the low slot, but his point-blank shot was stopped and smothered by DeSmith to keep the score tied at 4.
Two minutes later, Speelman corralled a loose puck at mid-ice and his headman pass sent Sorkin alone down the slot, but his blast sailed wide left.
The Wildcats called time out with 48 seconds remaining in regulation, but Witt turned aside Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) in the waning seconds to send the game to OT.
The two teams faceoff again Sunday afternoon for the third and decisive game to advance to the Hockey East semifinals. Puck drop is set for 4:30 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets at www.UNHWildcats.com or by calling the Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.