Durham, NH- University of New Hampshire Head Coach Dick Umile has written an excellent yet pained career. The 69-year-old coach has won 596 games, seven regular-season conference titles, two Hockey East tournament championships, and reached four Frozen Fours. He has a decorated career, but he’s not topped the college hockey world. He’s competed and won a number of games, but he has lost games that were beyond his control in painful ways. Many of the notable losses have been against the University of Maine.
On Wednesday night, the Wildcats hosted the Black Bears in a game that symbolized both the season for UNH and Umile’s career.
The game looked to be a shootout early. Nolan Vesey drove on UNH goalie Danny Tirone and Keith Muehlbauer tipped in the rebound for a 1-0 Maine lead only 28 seconds into the game. Thirty-eight seconds later, UNH created a two on one rush on Jeremy Swayman. Eric MacAdams fired a puck off Swayman and Jason Salvaggio potted a loose puck to tie the game 1:06 into the game.
The Wildcats kept up the attack, outshooting Maine 18-11. Swayman held the fort and kept the game tied until late in the period. With 2:51 left in the frame, Shane Eiserman put a puck on net with a backhander and Liam Blackburn tipped in a loose puck to put UNH ahead 2-1 before the intermission.
Maine started to turn the momentum in the second period. UNH committed three penalties and Maine got three of their 11 shots on the man advantage. UNH’s Hockey East-leading penalty kill and Danny Tirone stopped every shot and their offense extended the lead. Ara Nazarian and Charlie Kelleher gained the blue line just after the halfway mark of the period. Kelleher passed to Anthony Wyse and the sophomore defenseman from Newton, MA, beat Swayman with a smooth backhander. UNH took a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Maine upped their pressure and pounded Tirone with 18 shots in the third period while the Wildcats eased up on the assault. UNH got 12 shots in the frame, but most came in the first half of the period. The second belonged completely to the Black Bears. The UNH fans in attendance fell silent as Cedric Lacroix potted a rebound goal off his skate to cut the lead down to one with 6:36 left in the game.
Less than two minutes later, Mitchell Fossier tipped in an Alexis Binner blue line shot to tie the game. Jason Salvaggio took a slashing penalty with less than two minutes left and Maine looked to win the game in regulation. Danny Tirone held his ground and for the third time this season, Maine and New Hampshire played overtime.
Each team had chances in overtime, but both goalies held firm. Mitchell Fossier had a backhander in the crease early in OT but sailed the puck over Tirone. Ara Nazarian continued his strong performance with wristers on Swayman, but the freshman saved all shots. Ultimately, Mitchell Fossier got another chance with a backhander on his stick in Tirone’s crease and scored to beat UNH with 21 seconds left, and send the Wildcat fans home with broken hearts on Valentine’s Day.
Black Bear head coach Red Gendron was complimentary of both sides after the game.
“That was a fabulous hockey game. Regardless of records, anyone could’ve won these games. UNH played us to overtime ties in Orono earlier this year and could’ve won both of those games. Happy to come away winning here.”
Six of Maine’s last eight games have gone into overtime. With the win, Maine improves to 16-11-4 overall and 10-8-3 in Hockey East. The Black Bears play three games against the Boston College Eagles to close out the season. The Eagles and Black Bears start their series in Orono on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7:30 at the Alfond Sports Arena.
After the most disappointing loss of the season, Coach Umile was furious.
“That was pathetic, what we did in overtime and late in the third period. We came out flying in the first period and could’ve been up three or four goals. Not taking anything away from Maine, but we folded down the stretch. Seems like we don’t want to win.”
The loss drops UNH to 10-15-6 overall and 5-11-5 in Hockey East. The Wildcats sit at 10th in the standings just three points ahead of Merrimack. UNH will play the Warriors in North Andover on Friday night. Puck drops at 7 pm