MANCHESTER, N.H. - Junior forward Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario) scored two goals, including the game winner in overtime, and junior netminder Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) made 40 saves to propel the University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team to a 6-5 overtime win against the University of North Dakota on Saturday afternoon in the first NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal game at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Wildcats win their first ever NCAA tournament meeting with North Dakota to improve to 20-12-5 overall on the season. UNH posts a 20-win campaign for the 13th- consecutive year, which is the second longest active streak in the nation, while Head Coach Dick Umile earns his 17th 20-win season in 19 years of coaching at UNH. The Fighting Sioux fall to 24-15-4 on the season.
This was UNH's fifth overtime game in tournament history, including its third in regional play. The last tournament overtime win for the Wildcats, who are now 3-2 in overtime games in the tournament, came in a 3-2 win against Harvard University in the Northeast Regional semifinal at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. in March of 2005, which is also the last time UNH advanced out of that round.
Trailing 5-4 with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation and a faceoff coming up in its offensive zone, UNH pulled Foster in favor of an extra attacker. The Wildcats won the faceoff to senior defenseman Kevin Kapstad (Boxboro, Mass.), who swung the puck to his left along the blue line to sophomore forward Mike Sislo (Superior, Wisc.). Sislo rifled a shot that whistled past the net to the left, but the puck came around the boards to senior forward Jerry Pollastrone (Revere, Mass.), who was perched behind the right side of the net. Pollastrone threw the puck in front where senior forward Thomas Fortney (Webster Grove, Mo.) swiped at it and knocked it into the net to tie the game with one-tenth of a second remaining on the clock.
The Wildcats, whose six goals are the second most ever in a Northeast Regional game, carried over the momentum into overtime, netting their third unanswered goal just 45 seconds into the extra session. Pollastrone skated into the left side of the UNH zone and fed LeBlanc in the slot where he blasted a shot just past the outstretched glove of North Dakota goalkeeper Brad Eidsness and into the upper right hand corner of the net to send the 'Cats to Sunday’s Northeast Regional final against the winner of the second semifinal between top-seeded Boston University and No. 4 Ohio State University. Sislo and Pollastrone each recorded a goal and two assists in the contest. Eidsness finished the game with 28 stops.
With the game tied at three, UND went on top with 2:54 to play in the second period when Brad Malone skated in on the left side of the net and held the puck, sending Foster to the ice as he hit Chris VandeVeld in the slot. VandeVeld gathered the puck and threw it into the empty right side of the net. VandeVeld then widened North Dakota's advantage to two goals with another score midway through the final frame when he found the back of the net off a feed from Matt Frattin at 9:08.
Nearly two minutes later, UNH stopped the bleeding when senior forward Greg Collins (Fairport, N.Y.), who was camped out on the left side of the net, redirected a shot from the right circle by freshman Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, B.C.) that beat Eidsness with 9:00 on the clock and set up a chance for the dramatic ending. Collins finished the game with a goal and an assist.
UNH jumped on the board first with a power-play goal just a minute in when Sislo scooped up a rebound and beat Eidsness to make it 1-0. Eidsness turned away a slap shot from the blue line by senior defenseman Jamie Fritsch (Odenton, Md.), but the puck caromed to the left of the net at the endline where sophomore forward James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) shoveled it to a streaking Sislo, who put the puck over the right shoulder of Eidsness just 31 seconds into the power play.
North Dakota did not waste time responding, as they gained the equalizer exactly one minute later. Jason Gregoire took advantage of a UNH turnover and teed up a loose puck, beating Foster five-hole to knot the game at one at 16:26.
With the teams skating four-on-four, the Fighting Sioux added to their lead with 6:05 to play in the opening period when Malone took a feed from Andrew Kozek in the left circle and put the puck over the right shoulder of Foster.
The Wildcats hit back 4:08 into the second stanza with the teams once again skating four-on-four. Kapstad attempted to clear the puck out of the UNH zone when a North Dakota defender reached up to glove it down. The puck skipped off his glove, however, and Pollastrone, who skated behind the defense, picked up the loose puck and drove up the middle of the ice on a breakaway. Pollastrone skated hard to the right and beat Eidsness backhand into the left corner of the net.
UNH grabbed the lead for a second time at 7:21 with some crisp passing. Junior forward Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) broke out of his own zone with the puck along the right boards and quickly slid it to LeBlanc in the middle of the ice. LeBlanc dished the puck to the left for Collins, who quickly gave it back to LeBlanc on the break. LeBlanc faked to his left and beat Eidsness into the right side of the net to put the 'Cats on top 3-2. UNH set a Northeast Regional record with 20 shots on goal in the second period, topping the 19 third-period shots by St. Cloud State versus UNH on March 28, 2003.
The Fighting Sioux tied the game at three at 9:47 when shots by Gregoire and Brett Hextall produced a rebound attempt for Ryan Duncan, who slid the puck under the pads of Foster.
The Wildcats return to action Sunday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Arena when they take on Boston University for the right to advance to their eighth Frozen Four in school history.
HERE IS OUR LIVE GAME BLOG
5:10 p.m. Peter LeBlanc sends the Wildcat fans into a frenzy with the overtime game winner just :45 into the extra session
4:46 p.m. Thomas Fortney scores off a scrum in front of the North Dakota goal, makes the score 5-5 and sends the game to sudden-death overtime. Wildcat fans can't believe what they just saw.
4:45 p.m. UNH ties game with 00.1 seconds left.
4:40 p.m. North Dakota calls timeout with 18.3 seconds to play. Foster is out of the net and the faceoff is in the North Dakota zone.
4:36 p.m. UNH calls a timeout with 1:12 to play.
4:31 p.m. North Dakota remains in the lead, 5-4, with 3:39 to play. Wildcat fans in Section 220 can be heard discussing when UNH coach Dick Umile should pull Foster for an extra attacker.
4:19 p.m. The Wildcats give their fans hope when Collins redirects a Damon Kipp shot from the right point past Eidsness to make it 5-4 with 9:00 to play. There's a lengthy break in the action while the play is reviewed. Goal is allowed.
4:15 p.m. VandeVelde scores his second goal of the game (his 18th of the season) to put North Dakota up 5-3 with 10:52 remaining in regulation. VandeVelde is one of 13 players on the North Dakota roster who have been selected in the NHL draft.
4:13 p.m. UNH still trails 4-3 with 11:18 to play. A Wildcat victory would give the UNH program at least 20 victories in each of the last 13 seasons.
4:05 p.m. First media timeout in the third comes with 16 minutes to play in the period. UNH has no shots on goal through the first four minutes.
3:42 p.m. North Dakota leads 4-3 after 40 minutes. The Fighting Sioux put 20 shots on Foster in the second period. North Dakota goaltender Brad Eidsness has faced 21 shots through two periods. Wildcats appear in jeopardy of falling to 0-3 in NCAA tournament games played in Manchester.
3:35 p.m. Whatever momentum UNH had earlier in the period is gone. North Dakota assumes a 4-3 lead when Chris VandeVelde finishes off a two-on-one with Malone with 2:54 to play in the second.
3:22 p.m. UNH lead is short-lived. Duncan collects his 20th goal of the season to make it a 3-3 contest at 9:47 of the second.
3:17 p.m. UNH appears to have all of the momentum after Peter LeBlanc capitalizes on a three-on-two break to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead at 7:21 of the second. Chants of U-N-H, U-N-H, U-N-H can be heard for the first time all afternoon.
3:10 p.m. UNH fans come to life when Jerry Pollastrone scores on a breakaway while the teams are skating four-on-four. Pollastrone's goal, which came on a backhanded shot, makes it a 2-2 game at 4:08 of the second period.
2:46 p.m. North Dakota leads 2-1 at the end of one period. Fighting Sioux outshot the Wildcats 14-8 over the first 20 minutes. First period featured seven penalties, four on North Dakota.
2:34 p.m. North Dakota takes a 2-1 lead on four-on-four goal by left wing Brad Malone at 13:55. North Dakota has a 13-5 edge in shots on goal.
2:22 p.m. There's plenty of blue and white in the crowd, but the Verizon Wireless Arena, which seats nearly 10,000 for hockey, is no more than half full.
2:16 p.m. UNH sends its top power-play unit on the ice for a second time after Duncan is called for slashing at 4:54.
2:13 p.m. North Dakota pulls even one minute after Sislo's goal, when left wing Jason Gregoire beats goaltender Brian Foster with a shot from the right circle.
2:10 p.m. Fish (small by UNH standards) hits the ice when the Wildcats grab a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by sophomore right wing Mike Sislo at 2:34. Sislo has a team-high 19 goals this season. The goal came while North Dakota left wing Matt Watkins was in the penalty box for hooking.
2:05 p.m. North Dakota senior Ryan Duncan took the opening faceoff. It was the 175th consecutive game Duncan has played in, which tied the NCAA Division I record shared by North Dakota's Chris Porter (2003-07).
Pregame notes Both third-seeded UNH (19-12-5) and second-seeded North Dakota (24-14-4) enter the NCAA tournament with two-game losing streaks. BC swept UNH in the Hockey East quarterfinals, and North Dakota lost to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA semifinals and to Wisconsin in the WCHA consolation game. ... UNH will be playing without left wing Danny Dries, who was removed from the team earlier in the week for violating team rules. Dries is fourth on the team in goals (10). ... North Dakota holds a 10-3-2 edge in its all-time series with UNH, but this is the first time the programs have met in the postseason. ... North Dakota has reached the Frozen Four in each of the last four seasons, and is seeking its eighth national championship. UNH hasn't been in the Frozen Four since 2003, when it lost to Minnesota in the national championship game. ... UNH has appeared in the NCAA tournament in each of the last nine years. North Dakota is making its seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA field.