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BOSTON – New Hampshire freshman Bobby Butler scored 90 seconds into double overtime to give the third-ranked Wildcats a thrilling 3-2 victory over No. 12 Massachusetts in the first semifinal game of the Hockey East Tournament at the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night.
UNH junior goalie Kevin Regan made 44 saves as the top-seeded Wildcats improved to 26-9-2 (18-7-2 Hockey East) on the season in a game that was televised on NESN. New Hampshire advances to the championship game of the Hockey East Tournament and will play the winner of second-seeded Boston College and third-seeded Boston University tomorrow at 7:00pm at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“Kevin (Regan) has been the backbone of our team all season,” New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile said. “We’ve had a successful season, and obviously tonight he made a couple of huge saves for us. That’s what he has done for us all year. He’s been determined to get back to this point and with him in net we can have a lot of confidence.”
Fourth-seeded UMass drops to 20-12-5 (15-9-3 Hockey East) with the loss and will await a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field of 16 is announced on Sunday at 2:30pm on ESPN2. The defeat ended a six-game winning streak for the Minutemen.
“I don’t think anyone was disappointed with the intensity, and the quality of play,” UMass head coach Don Cahoon said. “Both teams went toe-to-toe and we were dead locked in scoring chances. I’m very proud of my guys and the way they competed and the way they executed. Hopefully they will get a chance to compete and play in the future.”
Sophomore Greg Collins and freshman Danny Rossman also scored goals in the victory for the Wildcats.
UMass sophomore Alex Berry and senior Chris Capraro both scored even strength goals for the Minutemen.
Collins scored on his own rebound crashing to the net at 3:29 of the first period to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Thomas Fortney setup the score with a centering pass from the right goal line. Butler also assisted on the fourth goal of the year for Collins.
The Minutemen tied the game at one with two minutes left in the first on the seventh goal of the season for Berry. UMass defenseman David Leaderer kept the puck in the New Hampshire zone when he sent a backhanded pass to the right half board. Berry took control of the puck just outside the right circle and blasted a shot on goal. The puck deflected off UNH defenseman Brad Flaishans and found the back of the net.
Just 16 seconds into the second period UMass took its first lead of the game. From behind the net on the fore check sophomore Cory Quirk sent a pass in front to an open Capraro. The senior deked Regan and scored his 10th goal of the year on a wrist shot to make it 2-1 UMass.
New Hampshire tied the game at two when Rossman scored the first goal of his career at 13:57 of the second. Rossman fired a wrist shot from the high slot that went past the left pad of UMass sophomore goalie Jon Quick. Senior Shawn Vinz picked up an assist on the score.
In the first overtime Regan and Quick exchanged several great saves. Midway through the first overtime Regan turned away a breakaway chance by freshman Will Ortiz. Less than a minute earlier Quick stopped a shot by UNH senior Josh Ciocco from inside the slot during a 2-on-1.
With the game tied at two just 90 seconds into double overtime UMass was unable to clear the puck from its own zone. Butler took advantage from the slot when he sent a fluttering puck in on Quick that went over his left shoulder and in the net for the game-winner.
“When it popped out there, I really couldn’t get everything on the shot,” Butler said. “It kind of popped up my stick and I just chipped it in.”
Quick made 38 saves in the losing effort for UMass.
Both teams went 0-for-1 on the power play. UMass outshot UNH 46-41.
New Hampshire seeks its third Lamoriello Trophy in school history and its first since 2003 tomorrow at 7:00pm. NESN will produce the Hockey East championship game, which will be broadcast on several alternate channels live. Log on to hockeyeastonline.com for a complete list of channels that will carry the game live. NESN will air the game on a tape delay basis at 10:30pm.
Tickets are available for Saturday’s Hockey East championship game at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office or by calling Ticketmaster at (617) 931-2000.