CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- The third period has been a nightmare for Boston College against New Hampshire this season. The Wildcats twice already have rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to salvage ties from games that looked all but over -- most recently on Friday, when the Eagles allowed three third-period goals and cost themselves a chance at a Hockey East regular-season title.
Paul Carey didn't wait long to make sure BC wouldn't led momentum slip away in the third period on Saturday. The fourth-line forward one-timed a loose puck past UNH goaltender Brian Foster less than three minutes into the period, and that goal turned out to be the game-winner in the Eagles' 3-2 win over the first-place Wildcats at Conte Forum.
"Our team was very strong start to finish -- as opposed to last night when we just stopped skating for 10 to 12 minutes of the third period up at UNH," BC coach Jerry York said. "Tonight we had some terrific chances and sustained a lot of good offensive zone play resulting in 40 or 41 shots on goal."
Actually, officially, it was 42 shots on goal, including 13 in the all-important third period. Foster turned aside 39 of those shots, doing just about everything his team could have asked of him. His team -- fighting an understandable post-clincher hangover, perhaps -- just didn't do much to help him. After two periods, the Wildcats had scored twice but still hadn't mustered 10 shots on goal.
"They outskated us all night," UNH coach Dick Umile said. "We were on the defensive, backchecking all night. We never really got in the zone and generated much offense. They played well. I don't think we did."
The BC onslaught began early and paid dividends before the first period was half over. Ben Smith and Joe Whitney executed a nifty give-and-go in front of Foster, and Whitney buried it for his 13th goal of the season.
UNH tied the game up on a Bobby Butler goal and even took a brief lead with 58.3 seconds left in the third: Mike Beck emerged from the penalty box just in time to receive a Mike Sislo pass, and Beck ripped a shot past BC goaltender John Muse to give the Wildcats a lead.
It was short-lived. Freshman defenseman Brian Dumoulin pounced on the rebound of a Carl Sneep shot in the faceoff circle and ripped it through the traffic in front of the net tie the game at 2 with 3.3 seconds left on the clock.
"It had seeing eyes," York said. "It just floated through the player there, went right through his legs."
Carey then provided the margin of victory early in the third period. Defenseman Patch Alber rifled a shot that deflected off a UNH player in front of the net, and Carey slapped the loose puck past Foster to give the Eagles the lead for good.
"The winning goal was an outstanding effort by Paul," York said. "The whole shift, he had the puck, he was skating, finishing checks. All of a sudden, he gets a shot from 20 feet in the slot and buried it."
A complicated series of tiebreakers -- three teams wound up tied for third place and two others tied for sixth -- left the No. 2-seeded Boston College to host No. 7 Massachusetts in the Hockey East quarterfinals starting Friday.
UNH will host No. 8-seeded Vermont, whose tie with UMass-Lowell on Saturday was enough to edge out Northeastern for the final playoff spot. That's bad luck for the Wildcats: Vermont might be near the bottom of the Hockey East standings, but the Catamounts were ranked No. 16 in the most recent U.S. College Hockey Online poll and remain on the periphery of contention for an NCAA tournament berth.
Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.