BOSTON – Freshman Grayson Downing scored on an awkward wrap-around from the right post two minutes into the second overtime as the sixth-seeded New Hampshire Wildcats posted a stunning upset of the No. 3 Boston University Terriers, by a 3-2 score in the opening game of the 2012 Hockey East Quarterfinals on Friday at Agganis Arena.
The loss was BU’s first against UNH since Nov. 19, 2010, snapping a five-game winning streak in the head-to-head series. In the regular season, the Terriers swept the three-game series for the first time since 1996-97.
“It happened really quick,” Downing, an Abbottsford, B.C. native said of his winning strike. “The puck sort of bounced up against the glass and the defender…was trying to get to the net. I know I took it off his stick and just threw it on net.”
“All you need is one and you want to get it before they do. We knew that if we just kept throwing them on net that they would eventually go in and it did.”
Overall, the Wildcats out-shot the Terriers by a 50-36 count, while posting 106 total chances against a struggling BU defensive unit that spent an awful lot of valuable time in the defensive zone.
“Needless to say, it was a great game for us,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile, whose team avenged a 1-0 loss to Maine last Saturday in Orono. “I thought our team played extremely well in every part of the game…I thought we did a better job than we did last week. All lines played well defending BU.”
The opening half of the first period was somewhat of a boring one with limited chances at both ends but as action picked up, the Wildcats potted two quick scores to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
BU scored the game’s opening goal at 14:39 as sophomore Matt Nieto led the rush down ice before passing to junior Alex Chiasson for the backhand score past a trailing UNH freshman goaltender Casey DeSmith.
That was Chiasson’s first goal in six games since a four-point outburst in a 7-4 victory at UMass-Lowell on Feb. 17.
UNH tacked on the next two goals with the first coming on a rebound goal by sophomore Nick Sorkin at 17:20, beating BU senior Kieran Millan under the crossbar to tie the score. Sorkin, a native of Rockville, Md., scored his third goal in four games on the play and his ninth of the season.
At 18:06, sophomore Kevin Goumas took a lazy shot from just inside the blue line, beating Millan under his left arm for a goal he would surely like to have back, especially in a playoff atmosphere.
The Long Beach, N.Y. native continued his strong four-game stretch, which includes two goals and four assists.
The Wildcats held a 12-10 advantage in shots on goal, but gave up their one-goal lead on the scoreboard in the final minutes of the second period as the Terriers were able to re-knot the score heading into the locker room a second time.
After a very slow power play a few minutes prior, freshman Alexx Privitera fed senior Kevin Gilroy for a backhand goal on the semi-breakaway for his first and only score since the season opener against these same Wildcats on Oct. 8, 2011.
The game headed into overtime, but that was not after some great chances on both sides throughout the third period.
The most golden chance of the final frame came in the final 90 seconds as Millan stoned UNH junior Greg Burke’s shot on the post with 1:15 to play. The Wildcats handily out-shot BU by an 18-10 margin in the third and finished regulation with a 36-28 edge.
The first overtime was more of the same as UNH dominated the scoring chances to the tune of 13-7 and 30-16 in total attempts.
In the midst of the fourth period, Millan set his new career-high with 45 saves to break a mark he had set twice, including once on Feb. 13, 2011 against rival Boston College.
Millan finished the night with an even 50 stops, including a staggering total of 18 in the third period alone, despite allowing the third and final goal of the contest. Downing’s goal was his tenth of his rookie campaign, capping the new longest game in the arena’s seven-year history at exactly 82 minutes.
“I thought my team looked absolutely legless tonight,” said BU head coach Jack Parker, whose team has now dropped two in a row after a season-closing overtime defeat at Northeastern last Saturday. “UNH certainly deserved the win. They played extremely well and if it was not for Millan, I thought they could have had seven goals.”
DeSmith earned his ninth win of the season as he made 34 stops, including ten in the third to seal the deal.
“Defending BU is never easy,” Umile said. “They are obviously a very talented team with a very talented goaltender and getting pucks by him is not easy. We found a way to get it done tonight.”
The second game of the best-of-three series will be televised on NESN and takes place back on Comm. Ave. tomorrow at 4 p.m. BU would earn its 100th all-time win over the rival Wildcats with a victory to send the set into a deciding third game on Sunday at 5 p.m.