Dry ice: N.E. teams vaporized
Last-hope UNH can't reach Frozen 4
AMHERST -- And then there were none.
When the NCAA Tournament regionals started this weekend, there were four Hockey East teams and one Boston-based ECAC team -- Harvard -- in the competition.
Yesterday afternoon, only one of those was left standing -- the University of New Hampshire, which had advanced to the Northeast Regional final against Denver at the Mullins Center.
But the Wildcats' season came to a bitter end as the defending national champion Pioneers got a hat trick from feisty center Gabe Gauthier and the winner from right wing Ryan Dingle on the way to a 4-2 victory. Denver advanced to the Frozen Four and will face Colorado College April 7 in Columbus, Ohio.
For the first time since 1992, there will be no Hockey East representative in the Frozen Four.
"I bet if you talk to any Hockey East team, they'd be surprised none of us is in the final four this year," said UNH defenseman Tyson Teplitsky. "It's definitely disappointment across the league, but it just shows the quality of all the teams across the nation.
"It's not necessarily that the teams aren't as good in Hockey East this year. I just think coming down the stretch, we rather got outplayed or got some bad bounces, but I think all the games are good. A lot of the games . . . could've went either way, including the game tonight. I don't think it takes anything away from our league. It's one of, if not the top, league in the nation."
At the start, it looked as if UNH was going to get run right out of the building. Were it not for the play of freshman goalie Kevin Regan, who made 42 saves and 17 in the first period alone, the Wildcats might have. Instead, it was a 1-1 game heading into the first intermission.
Gauthier potted his first at 13:42 and Jacob Micflikier answered for UNH at 14:36, both at even strength.
In the second, the Wildcats got a rare opportunity when center Daniel Winnik, who was the overtime hero in Saturday's win over Harvard, was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway by Denver defenseman Matt Carle.
Winnik took off from center ice, switched from his forehand to his backhand and back again, and beat goalie Peter Mannino inside the left post at 13:27. That swung the momentum in favor of the Wildcats. However, late in the period, the Pioneers pulled even on a power-play goal. After left wing Luke Fulghum left the game at 14:44 after being struck below the belt by a UNH slap shot, Denver coach George Gwozdecky moved up fourth-liner Adrian Veideman to take Fulghum's spot on the man advantage. Veideman set up Gauthier's one-timer from the slot at 18:02 that made it 2-2.
Fulghum came back for the third period and figured prominently in the winning goal with 3:43 left. Carle started the play with a shot on net that Regan stopped but couldn't corral. Fulghum whacked at the loose puck in front and Dingle poked it through off the scramble in front.
"One of the defensemen [Carle] just grabbed the puck in the corner and threw it to the net," said Regan, who was named the regional's top netminder. "I remember getting a piece of it, I think it hit off a skate or a stick or something. Then I just totally lost it. I had no idea where it was. I thought it was underneath me. The next thing I knew they were celebrating and the puck was in the net."
Dingle said the goal, as so often happens, came out of chaos.
"We were all trying to crash the net," he said. "Matt Carle had the puck and Luke Fulghum and I were just going to the net. Carle took a shot and Fulghum got the rebound, got a shot off, and then the puck somehow just came to me. I was trying to stand just out of the crease and it just came to me and I put it in."
Gauthier completed the hat trick with 22.9 seconds remaining, scoring into an empty net.
"It feels good, but the feeling is even better to win the championship and move on to the Frozen Four," said Gauthier. "Going into these games, you just want to do what you can to produce defensively and offensively to help your team win. Coming out with 6 points [over two games] is truly a bonus, but the bigger accomplishment was winning these two games and advancing."
UNH coach Dick Umile said he will have nothing but fond memories of this team, especially the seniors whose college careers are now over.
"Not only are they a special group, but they're a team who was a lot of fun to coach," said Umile. "They worked hard; we played some great games. Through all of that and the disappointments, they've been a fun group."