UNH Ends 2016 On High Note
[Manchester, NH] -- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats skated past the Maine Black Bears 6-4 on Friday night to close out the 2016 year. Although outshot 37-25, the Wildcats and Tyler Kelleher were able to grind out their third victory over the Black Bears this season.
It did not take long for the Wildcats to strike gold in this one when only :28 seconds in, Jason Salvaggio capitalized for his 10th goal of the season. Cam Marks glided a pass to Kelleher into the neutral zone who then redirected it to Michael McNicholas. He skated into the Maine zone on the right side and passed it to Salvaggio who then buried it past Maine netminder Rob McGovern.
“It is a good win for us. It ends 2016 and is against Maine. We did some good things, but need some work defensively. Tirone made some huge saves and Kelleher has a had great career against Maine and is a threat on the ice every year,” head coach Dick Umile said.
At 1:16, Ryan Smith scored his third goal of the season to level the score and it seemed that the crowd at SNHU Arena was ready to watch an exciting hockey game. Smith retrieved a pass from Cedric Lacroix who then fired a shot just outside the faceoff circle.
One of the biggest plays of the season was at 9:02 in the first period when Shane Eiserman poked checked a puck away in the defensive end at the start of Maine’s first power play and broke away skating down the ice. Eiserman then shot it top shelf past McGovern to make it 2-1.
“It was a great way to start the second half of the year. We all gel pretty good and have good chemistry. Confidence is high right now,” Salvaggio said.
Maine would not go quietly in front of 4,460 at SNHU arena when on their second power play of the night, senior defensemen Eric Schurhamer knotted the game up at two a piece. Florida Panther prospect Patrick Shea saucered a pass over to Schurhamer who from the point wristed one through traffic and past netminder Danny Tirone.
At 5:44 of the second period, Kelleher continued to showcase his All-American talent when he scored his 13th goal of the season to put UNH up 3-2. Captain Matias Cleland found Kelleher in the neutral zone who then skated around two Black Bears and into the Maine zone and fired one into the back of the net.
“Tyler sets them up. That whole line. He is a threat every time he is on the ice. That goal he had was fabulous. I just knew when he was sitting behind the net he get Sal out front. Sal has a great shot and in his junior year he has broke out. We have a good line with them,” Umile said.
One of the biggest stories of the night was freshman Justin Fregona burying his first collegiate goal at 15:30 of the second period. Fregona clawed his way through the Black Bear attack and carried the puck himself into the slot and then wristed one top shelf to make it 4-2.
Maine made it a one goal affair after Schurhamer tallied his second of the night to make it 4-3 going into an exciting third period. With :52 seconds left in the second, Cam Brown fed a one-time pass to Schurhamer who rocketed one past Tirone.
The third period lived up to the hype when both teams were physical and continued to jaw at each other. The momentum seemed in the corner of the Black Bears, but at 14:02 in the final stanza, Salvaggio scored his second of the game and 11th of the season. Marks once again set it up and played a pass to Kelleher behind the Maine net. Goalie Matt Morris had taken over for McGovern. Kelleher found Salvaggio in the slot waiting for the biscuit. It was a tic-tac-goal that got Wildcat fans in Manchester on their feet and more importantly put UNH up 5-3.
TK was able to record his fourth point of the night when he scored an empty netter. Kelleher's 35th point of the season moved him to second place in scoring, behind Union’s Mike Vecchione, in all of D-I college hockey. Vecchione has 37. Kelleher is also tied for third in the nation in goals (14) and tied for first in assists (21).
Maine got the last laugh to make the score to 6-4 with a goal by Patrick Holway. Malcolm Hayes and Housakos recorded assists on the play, but the final score ended 6-4 in favor of the Wildcats.
UNH moved to 9-7-2 on the year and still 5-1-1 in Hockey East as the thick of the schedule now stares them in the face. The Black Bears fell to 7-10-3 on the season.
Here are the highlights of the Wildcats winning the Riverstone Classic courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:
Up Next: UNH returns to the Whittemore Center to challenge the #7 UMASS-Lowell River Hawks in a contest that will prove where this UNH Hockey team is really at as the new year begins. For now, a 3-0 sweep of Maine in 2016-2017 is always a great accomplishment.
Tune in Friday on 91.3 FM WUNH Durham at 6:00 PM to listen to the action as Brian Dunn and myself bring you the contest.