DURHAM, N.H. - Steve Saviano (Reading, Mass.) scored at 6:45 of overtime to lift the top-ranked and top-seeded University of New Hampshire hockey team to Saturday night's 5-4 Hockey East quarterfinal victory against Merrimack College at the Whittemore Center.
With the win, UNH wins the best-of-three series 2-0 to advance to the semifinals (March 15 at the FleetCenter) and the Wildcats improve to 27-6-3 with their seventh consecutive victory. Merrimack, which is 0-21-4 against UNH in the last 25 meetings, ends its season at 11-23-2.
Merrimack goaltender Joe Exter broke the Hockey East tournament record for most saves in a quarterfinal game with 62, including 21 in the second period and eight in the extra session before yielding the game-winning goal.
Saviano gathered a pass from Garrett Stafford (Los Angeles, Calif.; three assists) and skated behind the net from the left corner. He stopped behind the net, reversed direction, then tucked his shot inside the left post. Hobey Baker Award candidate Darren Haydar (Milton, Ont.), who scored a pair of second-period power-play goals, was also credited with an assist.
UNH goalie Michael Ayers (Hingham, Mass.) matched his career-best effort with 33 saves, including three in overtime.
Trailing 3-0 in the second period, UNH rallied to tie the game with three goals in a span of 1:49. Haydar began the flurry with a power-play goal set up by Colin Hemingway (Surrey, B.C.) and Stafford at 8:47. Haydar's goal was the 100th of his career, making him one of only two players in school history to accomplish that feat. Tim Horst (South St. Paul, Minn.) trimmed the deficit to 3-2 when he scored on his own rebound at 10:06. David Busch (Toronto, Ont.) and Lanny Gare (Vernon, B.C.) were credited with assists.
Haydar, standing on the left doorstep, tied the game, 3-3, 30 seconds later on a rebound from a shot by Hemingway. Stafford picked up his second assist on the tally.
The Warriors regained the lead, 4-3, with 1:19 remaining in the second period when Alex Sikatchev scored on his own rebound. Anthony Aquino recorded his second assist of the night and Nick Parillo also set up the goal.
New Hampshire scored the only goal of the third period to force the extra session. Horst's initial shot was stopped by Exter, but Ed Caron (Hudson, N.H.) lifted the rebound into the upper shelf at 5:59. Partick Foley (Milton, Mass.) earned an assist.
Merrimack had built a 3-0 lead with a pair of first-period goals and an early strike in the middle stanza. Ryan Kiley, standing at the right post, deposited the puck into the upper shelf for a 1-0 lead at 4:37. Marco Rosa and Nick Torretti set up the goal.
Ryan Cordeiro gave the Warriors a 2-0 advantage at 13:42 when his slapshot from the left point sailed into the net. Stephen Crusco initiated the scoring sequence by winning the faceoff back to Cordeiro. Sikatchev scored his first of the night on the power play 33 seconds into the second period to give MC its three-goal lead.