UNH Finds the Win Column for the First Time
It was not easy in upstate New York this past weekend, but the University of New Hampshire hockey team was resilient and upended Clarkson 5-3 on Saturday night. Combined with the loss to St. Lawrence on Friday night, UNH went 1-1 on the weekend trip and improved their record to 1-2 on the year.
Going into the matchup, the Wildcats had been looking to score goals and were outscored 11-3 through two games. After falling down 2-0 early, it looked like the team was going in the wrong direction once again. Yet, the 'Cats' comeback showed what the team can do with their backs against the wall.
Just 94 seconds into the game, Clarkson's Troy Joseph received a tape-to-tape pass from Aaron Thow and skated down the right wing before he lifted one off the far post past junior goalie Danny Tirone.
It got worse for UNH as the Golden Knights struck gold with under 10 minutes left in the first period. Sophomore Juho Jokiharju retrieved a loose puck in Wildcat territory raced to the slot and wristed one past Tirone five hole to make it 2-0.
At this juncture in the game, it did not look good for the Wildcats. The team needed a boost and they got it from freshman Patrick Grasso. Grasso, who scored his first NCAA goal on Friday night, capitalized on the power-play by poking one in at the crease past Jake Kielly. It is a young season for the 'Cats with young talent, but players such as Grasso stepping up and getting a feel for college hockey is great to see.
The night got better as senior defenseman Dylan Maller recorded his first goal as a Wildcat to tie the game 2-2. Maller took a shot from the top of the point and flung it through traffic and past Kielly. Momentum was shifting and for the first time all season, the 'Cats were finishing golden opportunities.
Then adversity crept back onto the ice as the Golden Knights and Jokiharju responded just 70 seconds later. At 10:59 in the second, Jokiharju received a beautiful puck off the boards behind the net then swung around at the near side circle and wristed one blocker side on Tirone.
Grasso again picked up the slack, with the 2nd period coming to a close, by scoring his second of the game. Winning the faceoff, fellow freshman Liam Blackburn glided one to Grasso who shot top shelf on the blocker side of Kielly and converted making it 3-3. That was Blackburn's first collegiate point.
With the game tied, UNH and Clarkson battled throughout the most of the the third period with neither team scoring. In the end, senior Tyler Kelleher would not let the team's record fall to 0-3. With a 1:39 remaining in regulation and the Wildcats and Golden Knights smelling over-time, Kelleher took the Knights' sword and slayed the beast. Swiftly skating down the far right wing, Jason Salvaggio connected across the crease on a one-timer that Kelleher tucked in the net. It was an incredible play that brought the 'Cats identity back to the ice.
Kelleher sniped a 150-foot empty netter at 19:28 and the Wildcats won 5-3. Tirone stopped 29 pucks and both Kelleher and Grasso had a pair of goals to highlight the night.
It is a young season, but the young Wildcat team needed this one. A come-from-behind win made it that much sweeter.
Check out the highlights here:
The Wildcats return home to take on Colorado College next Saturday at 7:00 p.m.