Last night's Hockey East matchup between Boston College and New Hampshire at Conte Forum featured teams coming off disappointing Friday night games. The Eagles managed just a tie against Merrimack, while the Wildcats got spanked by UMass-Lowell.
So, both wanted to rebound quickly. Sixth-ranked UNH started well, but No. 5 BC erupted for five goals in the middle period on the way to a wild 8-6 victory in front of 5,417.
There were challenges on both sides. BC coach Jerry York benched forward Joe Whitney, who played in all 44 games last season as a freshman. Whitney had a point in each of his first four games this season but had none in the next five, which led to him being left out of the lineup. Others, such as freshman right wing Jimmy Hayes (three goals, one assist, tied for a game-high six shots) picked up the slack. Meanwhile, UNH coach Dick Umile was without his starting goalie, Brian Foster, who has been battling a balky ankle and missed his third game, which created an opportunity for freshman Matt DiGirolamo (29 saves). UNH gave up 16 goals in two games over the weekend.
For Hayes, it was a thrill to net his first collegiate hat trick.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "It's been a long time. I don't think I've scored a hat trick in a couple of years. It was really exciting."
UNH scored first, 22 seconds into the action. Junior center Peter LeBlanc, who had six goals in 76 games prior to this season, potted his sixth of the year in his 11th game, beating sophomore John Muse (31 saves) from the right circle. The Wildcats added another during a power play at 9:44 when sophomore right wing Mike Sislo drilled a shot from the inside edge of the right circle that eluded Muse.
UNH (4-4-3, 2-2-2) made it a three-goal lead at 1:49 of the second on Sislo's second of the night. But the Eagles answered with the start of a five-goal rally at 3:57. Hayes got it rolling, taking a pass from junior center Ben Smith and beating DiGirolamo from just outside the right post. The next three BC goals came in a span of just 3:55.
The Eagles (6-3-1, 4-2-1) got within 3-2 on freshman Paul Carey's backhand off a Hayes rebound at 7:48. BC tied it at 8:13 on a tape-to-tape pass from Brian Gibbons to Brock Bradford, who beat DiGirolamo from the left circle. Gibbons gave BC the lead at 11:43, scoring from outside the left post, and the Eagles went up, 5-3, at 17:41 during a power play on Hayes's second of the game. It marked the first time the Eagles had potted five goals in a period since Dec. 30, 2007, against RIT.
UNH got back within one at 1:06 of the third when sophomore center James van Riemsdyk took a centering pass from Sislo and powered it past Muse. But junior center Matt Lombardi, playing for Whitney, provided BC's sixth goal at 2:06.
BC made it 7-4 on Bradford's second goal at 6:58, and freshman defenseman Blake Kessel (younger brother of Bruin Phil Kessel) earned UNH's fifth tally at 8:54. Hayes got his third on an empty-netter at 19:16, and Steve Moses scored UNH's sixth at 19:26.
"It was a crazy game," said Umile. "Obviously, we didn't do a great job of defending in our own end and we've obviously got work to do there, that's for sure. We battled back all night but we couldn't get it back. Obviously, we're not playing as well as we're capable of playing. Defensively we're not playing as well as we should be playing and are capable of playing."
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.