DURHAM, N.H. - Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) scored with 42 seconds remaining to lift the University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team to a 3-3 tie against the University of Massachusetts in Saturday night's Hockey East contest in front of a sellout crowd at the Whittemore Center.
The Wildcats extend their unbeaten streak to eight games (5-0-3) as they improve to 5-1-3 overall, including 3-0-2 in Hockey East play. The Minutemen move to 0-6-3 on the season and 0-3-3 in the league. UNH's eight-game unbeaten streak is the longest since February 2008 when the team was 7-0-1.
Trailing 3-2 with 42 seconds on the clock, the Wildcats evened the score when Kessel crashed the net and finished off a pass from Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.), who had circled around on the right end line before dishing the puck to the front of the net.
UNH drew first blood 4:17 into the opening period off a great defensive play from Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.). As the UMass defender at the right point attempted to swing the puck across the blue line to the left, Thompson stuck his stick out and intercepted the pass. Thompson split the two converging defenders and put a shot on net that was saved by UMass goaltender Paul Dainton as he dove to his right. Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.), who was trailing the play, collected the puck on the doorstep and easily slid it into the vacant net to put his team up 1-0.
The Minutemen gained the equalizer just under two minutes later when Adam Phillips' shot from the right circle was stopped by goaltender Matt DiGirolamo (Ambler, Pa.), but the puck trickled through his pads and was cleaned up at the far post by Branden Gracel.
The Wildcats went back on top on the power play with just 4:01 to play in the period. At the bottom of the left circle, DeSimone wheeled around a defender and sent a backhanded pass across the slot that Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) buried in the top right corner of the net to make it 2-1. Thompson earned his second assist of the game on the play.
UMass tied the game at two with 7:03 remaining in the third period when T.J. Syner received a feed at the top of the right slot from Michael Marcou and wristed a shot into the right corner of the net. The Minutemen then grabbed their first lead of the night with 1:02 to play when Graciel's shot from the left circle was saved by DiGirolamo, but the rebound caromed to DiGirolamo's left as he slid to the right and Michael Pereira buried the puck in the open net to give UMass what would be a brief 3-2 lead. Marcou also earned an assist on the play.
DiGirolamo made 29 saves, including 11 in the opening period, while Dainton stopped 43 shots - 18 of them in the final period.
UNH outshot UMass, 46-32, including 19-9 in the third period and 4-1 in the extra session.
The Wildcats return to action Friday, Nov. 19 (7 p.m.) with the first of a home-and-home weekend set with Boston University. Tickets for the game, which will be televised live on NESN, and any UNH home contests are available at UNHWildcats.com.