UNH Sweeps Rival Maine Over Weekend
[Durham, NH] -- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats hockey team made a case as one of the better Hockey East teams so far this year with a clean sweep of their north-of-the-border rival Maine Black Bears this past weekend. The Wildcats upended the Black Bears on Friday by a score of 5-1 and then on Saturday 4-3.
On Friday, the Wildcats met with the Black Bears for the 126th time and yet another "White Out the Whitt" spectacle. Led by Tyler Kelleher's two goals, the Wildcats climbed back from a 1-0 deficit in the second period and skated past the Black Bears 5-1.
After a tug and war match at the start of the first period, the Black Bears struck first and hushed up the 6,501 at the Whittemore Center when Mitchell Fossier deflected one past Danny Tirone on the powerplay. On the far end of the ice, Patrick Holway guided a puck to Eric Shchurhamer who found Fossier who put it on the net and it went off the skate of the a fellow defensemen to make it 1-0.
Once the second period started, the Wildcats increased the forecheck and good things happened on the power play. At 6:23, Kelleher, the Longmeadow, Massachusetts native, found the back of the net for his 9th goal of the season and the Whittemore Center erupted in excitement. On the power play, Michael McNicholas fed one over to captain Matias Cleland who passed the puck tape-to-tape to Kelleher who wristed one past Maine goalie Rob Mcgovern from the top of the slot to make it 1-1.
Kelleher found the back of the net once again on the prettiest play of the season. At 14:52 of the second period, the senior controlled the puck and skated down the near side of the ice avoiding three pinching Black Bears. He then went backhand to forehand and carried the puck through the crease, past the poke check of McGovern, and tucked the puck into the net. It was an electrifying goal, to say the least, and it put the Wildcats up 2-1.
"I just tried to enjoy the experience, being my last White out the Whitt. It was instincts. I was taking it up the ice and saw the defenseman was pretty flat footed so I saw I could take him wide and right when I looked up I saw the goalie was trying to poke check me so I tried to get around him and slide it in. Lucky it went in," Kelleher said.
"He is playing great. You just don't teach that. I looked at Mike (Souza) and he looked at me and said you just don't teach that. He is a smart hockey player," head coach Dick Umile said.Brendan van Riemsdyk added to the mix late in the second period when the freshman scored an instrumental goal at 2:42 to make it 3-1. It was his second of the season and now he can tell his older brothers he was also able to score against Maine. Freshman forward Liam Blackburn, on the stellar, all-freshman third line, was able to chip one over to junior defenseman Cam Marks who the took a shot on net that was deflected in by van Riemsdyk
The third period proved a test for the Wildcats who had to play hard defensively to keep the Black Bears at ease and Cleland, Dylan Maller, Matt Dawson, Richard Boyd and freshman Anthony Wyse stayed strong to keep the Black Bears out of the offensive end.
"Wyse played a monster game tonight," Umile said.
At 14:18 in the third stanza, Jason Salvaggio, who is playing on another planet as of late, notched his 8th goal of the season to make it 4-1. It was all Wildcats and the fans were letting the Black Bears know they aren't up in Orono quite yet. Frankie Cefalu fed a pass over to Kelleher who drove on the far side of the net. He made a quick dangle, temporarily lost control of the puck, then it to a crashing Salvaggio who wristed one top shelf past McGovern.
Marks then put a fork in it at 4:35 of the third period when he scored his first goal of the season to make it 5-1. The defensemen found the X marks the spot on the ice and did what he does best and put it on net and it elevated past Matt Morris. The crowd went wild and put the game to rest in favor of the home team.
After the game, Marks said: "The fans were great tonight and thankful that they did it. Great atmosphere to play in and it is just UNH-Maine."
Danny Tirone was spectacular in the game stopping 23 of 24 shots on net to improve his record between the pipes to 7-4-2. The Wildcats were attacking on all cylinders and it showed in the later stages of the second and third periods. They knew they had to repeat this performance on Saturday up at Alfond Arena.
"It was a good game. We came back pretty hard, kept scoring goals and capitalizing on our power play. It was a full 60 minutes game. We did well," Marks said.
Up in Orono on Saturday night, the Wildcats had a Maine team looking to even the score in front of their own fans and it was a battle from start to finish. Led by Kelleher and Blackburn's two goals, the Wildcats clawed their way to a 4-3 victory for the clean sweep of Maine.
At 13:22 of the first period, the Black Bears struck first once again after Rob Michael scored a power-play goal to make it 1-0. Junior forward Nolan Vesey found Michael at the point who buried it past Tirone.
Late in the first period, Kelleher scored his 11th goal of the season during a 5-on-3 man advantage after a pair of Black Bear penalties. Kelleher used the extra skating room to his advantage. Freshman Patrick Grasso slid a pass to McNicholas who was behind the net who then drove one to Kelleher in the slot who fired away top shelf past McGovern. It was 1-1.
With 55 seconds remaining in the first period, Blackburn chimed in with his fifth goal of the season. On the ensuing 5-on-4, sophomore Ara Nazarian, who had just returned to action Friday night, passed one to Marcus Vela behind the net who then found Blackburn sneaking in towards the crease and got it past McGovern's right leg.
At 16:29 of the second period, Blackburn scored once again, this time on the power play. Cleland fired a pass over to Kelleher who from the slot played a pass to Blackburn who fired one bar down to make it 3-1. The Wildcats had a comfy lead, but compared to Friday night Maine would battle back.
3:38 of the third period, Maine's senior captain Cam Brown scored to cut the lead to one in favor of UNH. Brendan Robbins was able to connect with Pittsburgh Penguin product Blaine Byron who then assisted the puck over to Brown who fired a shot past Tirone.
At 17:07 of the third period and the tension building, Kelleher once again found the back of the net for his team-leading 12th goal of the season. The Wildcats had a two-goal cushion once again and some of the Black Bear fans left Alfond Arena. Maine scored a late goal by Chase Pearson, but it was too late as the Wildcats finished off the Black Bears 4-3.
It was a weekend of good hockey for the Wildcats. They improved to 8-6-2 overall and 5-1-1 in Hockey East. A total of four points were collected and confidence skyrocketed with two big wins over the teams biggest rival.
The Wildcats will be in action this Saturday against interstate rival the Dartmouth College Big Green over in Hanover, New Hampshire at 7:00 pm.
Here are the highlights of the Wildcats victory on White Out the Whitt night courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions: