DURHAM, N.H. — Freshman forward Preston Callander scored a career-high three points — eclipsing his previous best of two set in UNH’s last game — as the fourth-ranked New Hampshire Wildcats defeated Yale, 5-3, before 6,027 at the Whittemore Center.
UNH improved to 14-3-2 on the season. Yale fell to 4-8-2.
New Hampshire was coming off an impressive performance at the Bank One Badger Showdown in Milwaukee, in which the Wildcats defeated then-No. 10 Colorado College, 6-2, in the opener, then claimed the tournament championship with an 11-3 thrashing of Brown. UNH outscored the opposition by a combined score of 13-1 in the third period. Yale, on the other hand, lost a pair of one-goal games in the Silverado Shootout held at the Minnesota-Duluth.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with the outcome. This is typical of our games with Yale — much like last year’s game,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “The difference this year was that we were able to put away some of those shots. Preston Callander played well for us tonight. He made some great moves.”
Last season, Yale beat both UNH and national champion Boston College on the road.
In a fast-paced first period, UNH controlled the play in the early going. However, the Wildcats did not register their first shot on goal until the 8:04 mark — when Callander finished off a pretty give-and-go with junior Jim Abbott to pocket his third goal of the season, giving New Hampshire a 1-0 advantage.
Yale, however, worked hard as the period progressed, and at 15:18 got the equalizer. Sophomore Ryan Steeves fed the puck from just inside the UNH blue line to a wide-open Greg Boucher. The junior out of Manchester, N.H., scored his first of the season, wristing a shot past UNH senior netminder Matt Carney to knot the score up at 1-1.
“It was great getting it here,” said Boucher of his tally. The period ended with the Wildcats holding an 8-6 shot advantage.
“I thought we played hard tonight. One of the things we’ve really tried to work on is to have a 60-minute effort. We got that tonight,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “We played a dangerous team tonight. They have scoring threats on all lines. You can maybe contain (Darren) Haydar out there, but they have so many other weapons.
“You would think that holding him (Haydar) without a goal would bode well for us. It’s a tribute to UNH’s balance that they can still score (five) goals without him.”
New Hampshire, which had the sixth-best power play in the nation (tops in Hockey East) entering Thursday’s game, scored all five of its goals at even strength.
Yale took a 2-1 lead at 1:12 of the second period on a Nick Deschenes goal. The junior roofed a wrister over Carney’s right shoulder for his fourth of the season. UNH, however, answered just 34 seconds later. Lanny Gare stuffed home a rebound past Yale senior goalie Dan Lombard, with assists going to Colin Hemingway and Josh Prudden. It was Gare’s fifth of the season.
The Bulldogs were playing without leading scorer Chris Higgins, competing for the U.S. National Junior Team in the Czech Republic. Higgins had scored a goal in each of the first three tournament games.
“It’s a big loss. He’s our Haydar out there, especially on the power play. But I do think it’s a great honor to have him playing for the U.S. team,” said Taylor.
The Wildcats took a 3-2 lead when Callander made a nifty move around a Yale defender and threaded a soft pass to sophomore Tim Horst, who scored the first goal of his collegiate career.
Yale refused to give in, however, and at 13:52 the Bulldogs tied the game again, 3-3, as senior Jason Noe scored his third of the year, with Ryan Trowbridge and Mike Klema assisting. UNH almost broke the tie at the 17:30 mark, but Prudden’s point-blank attempt was stopped by Lombard.
New Hampshire outshot Yale 21 to 11 in the period.
New Hampshire entered the third period tied for the third straight game. And for the third straight game, the Wildcats came out on top in the end.
“We have a lot of confidence playing in these types of games,” said Umile. “That comes from experience in playing in close games like this one.”
In the third period, Callander picked up where he left off after the first and second periods. The Regina, Sask., native fired a slapshot from the Yale blue line which just missed the right post. However, fellow freshman Tyson Teplitsky was there for the rebound, banging home his second of the game for what proved to be the game-winner.
Of New Hampshire’s five goals, three were scored by underclassmen, to go along with four assists.
Gare finished things off with an empty-netter at 19:44.
“I’m just trying to get the system down, make plays, and work on getting a shot at playing,” said Callander. “The speed of the college game takes the most getting used to. But I’m a lot more confident now than I was at the beginning (of the year).”
Umile said on the play of his underclassmen: “We felt that our freshman class would add depth to our scoring. But this isn’t a ‘freshman’ class anymore — they’re second-semester freshmen, and they’re earning their stripes now.”
With the win, UNH increased its goals-per-game average, which already stood at third in the country at 4.67 per game.
“It’s a great place to play … great atmosphere,” Taylor said of the Whittemore Center, though the arena was perhaps quieter than usual due to most of the UNH students being on break. “It’s the way college hockey should be played.”
New Hampshire is back in action at the Whittemore Center once again this Saturday, when the Wildcats host Hockey East foe Merrimack. UNH now plays all league games for the remainder of the season. Yale, meanwhile, will host Boston College on Sunday.