ALBANY, N.Y. -- Persistence paid off for University of New Hampshire captain Mark Mowers, and as a result of his shorthanded goal at 10:49 of overtime, the Wildcats knocked off top-seeded Boston University last night, 4-3, in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional quarterfinals at Pepsi Arena.
Denied twice on third-period breakaways and a late stuff attempt in regulation, Mowers finished off a two-on-one break with Wakefield's Mike Souza and won his personal battle with BU's gallant goalie, Michel Larocque, with a wrist shot to the near side.
Souza, with teammate Jason Krog in the penalty box, knocked the puck away from BU point man Jeff Kealty and broke down the left boards with only Terriers defenseman Joe DiPenta between himself and Mowers.
"The puck was rolling and bouncing a little and I was afraid for a second I wouldn't be able to make a play. It was nerve-wracking,'' said Souza, who feathered a perfect pass to Mowers, who made no mistake in the slot.
"Of course, it's the biggest goal I've ever scored,'' said the senior from Whitesboro, N.Y., located 100 miles west of Albany. ``It's every college player's dream to play for a national championship, and this is a dream come true for all of us.''
It was tournament MVP Mowers's second shorthanded goal of the game. BU got two goals from Tommi Degerman on feeds from Chris Drury, one of those shorthanded as well, to take a 3-2 lead late in the second period, but UNH tied it on a Derek Bekar goal with two Terriers in the penalty box less than two minutes after falling behind.
"When we fell behind, 3-2, it was important for us to score on that power play,'' said Mowers. "If we didn't, things could have turned out differently.''
The Terriers, who won in OT on a Drury goal last year against Denver to reach the Final Four and an eventual title game against North Dakota, nearly pulled it out in dramatic fashion in the final seconds of regulation.
Mike Sylvia split the UNH defense, but his wrist shot was turned aside by Wildcats goalie Sean Matile's right pad.
"I kept it together enough to make the save. I gave my team a chance to win and right now, I think Albany is the greatest city in the world,'' said Matile.
And why not? UNH limped into New York's capital city after being ousted two weeks ago from the Hockey East playoffs by visiting Maine, but came from behind to defeat Wisconsin, 7-4, Saturday with a five-goal third-period barrage. BU, stunned by Merrimack as well in its league playoffs, was playing its first game in 14 days.
Sylvia, the senior from Newton who set up BU's first goal by Nick Gillis, was understandably downcast.
"I just didn't get good wood on the [third-period] shot,'' he said. ``I tried to go top right and didn't get the puck up.''
The Terriers (28-8-2), were outshot, 37-31, by their Hockey East opponent, and it was Larocque who kept them in the game until BU's special teams faltered for the final, and fatal, time.
"At 3-3, it was anyone's game,'' said BU coach Jack Parker. "We played great hockey in the third period and in the overtime. We just didn't win the game. We just weren't able to get the job done offensively and they did a great job killing penalties.''
BU was just 1 for 7 on its power play, while the Wildcats were 2 for 6, leaving Parker with an empty feeling. "It will be hard next weekend . . . especially tough when we are hosting,'' he said.
Fifth-seeded UNH (25-11-1) now will take on Michigan Thursday in the NCAA semifinals at the FleetCenter and for coach Dick Umile, a 1972 UNH grad and former Melrose High star who grew up skating on Ell Pond, it will be his first trip as a player or coach to the Final Four.
"This was the biggest win of my life,'' he said. "This was a great college game. I respect that BU program a great deal and I know they feel that way about us. Everyone says that the road to the championship has to go through BU.
"We were down by a goal but we were still playing pretty well,'' he added. "Mark Mowers typifies our hockey program. He's one of the players who has helped take this program to the level that we're at.''