DURHAM, N.H. — Redemption is oh-so-sweet.
Sophomore Patrick Foley scored two goals, and junior Josh Prudden added a goal and an assist as the fourth-ranked New Hampshire Wildcats defeated UMass-Amherst, 6-1, at the Whittemore Center.
UNH improved to 17-4-2 (9-2-2 Hockey East), winning its eighth game out of the last nine contests. UMass-Amherst remained winless in its last seven games, and fell to 7-16-1 (2-11-1 HE). Coupled with Friday night’s 5-1 UNH victory in Amherst, New Hampshire now leads the all-time series, 57-11-4.
Last year, UMass-Amherst came into the Whittemore Center in Durham in the next to last game of the regular season and beat New Hampshire in overtime. While at the time the result seemed to be just a tough loss to swallow, it cost the Wildcats the number-two seed in the Hockey East playoffs. UNH instead received the fourth seed — and a much tougher foe in UMass-Lowell. And as it turned out, the River Hawks upset the Wildcats in the best-of-three quarterfinal series, eliminating New Hampshire from consideration for the NCAA tournament.
Needless to say, revenge was on the ‘Cats minds.
When asked if last year’s overtime loss may have still been on the minds of his players, UNH head coach Dick Umile laughed.
“What, are you trying to get me stressed out already?,” he said. “We still have to play these guys once more this season. But to answer your question, yeah, it was probably part of it,” he said. “(UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon) always brings his team to play every night. We were fortunate enough to beat them tonight.”
Cahoon liked what he saw Friday night much more than what he witnessed Saturday.
“I thought that last night, we played within ourselves. The first period tonight, however, was absolutely brutal. We played with no confidence out there. I thought we played a pretty good second period, but the third … was not very good,” said the second-year Minuteman coach. “I was very disappointed in the overall play of the team tonight.”
Center Josh Prudden started the scoring for the Wildcats. The junior out of Andover, Mass., stole the puck out in front, walked in all alone, deked and beat Minutemen freshman goaltender Tim Warner for his 10th goal of the season. Sophomore defenseman Mick Mounsey and junior Colin Hemingway assisted.
With UMass junior defenseman Samuli Jalkanen off for holding at 10:59, UNH senior captain Darren Haydar picked the puck up near the UMass net, and, much like Prudden before him, skated right in on Warner, faked him, and scored his 22nd goal of the season for a 2-0 UNH lead. Juniors Colin Hemingway and Kevin Truelson assisted. It was Truelson’s first game back for UNH after missing the previous five with a sprained ankle.
“I thought we played a lot better tonight than last night. We played a solid 60 minutes,” said Umile. “(sophomore UNH goalie) Michael Ayers deserves a lot of credit,” he said.
Haydar, the nation’s leader in points coming into the game with 21 goals and 30 assists, moved into fifth place on the all-time UNH scoring list the previous night with a two-goal performance in Amherst. It was the 35th power-play goal of the season for the Wildcats, who have already surpassed last year’s total of 25. New Hampshire leads Hockey East in power-play percentage at 29.8%.
“It just shows how much depth this team has, and the kind of players we have on this team,” said Haydar, when asked to comment on the team’s success on the power play. Umile added, “It’s a credit to him (Haydar) and the way he plays, not just on the ice but in the locker room as well.”
UNH, which entered the game as the second highest scoring team in the nation at 4.9 goals per game, did not let up, and just 22 seconds later, Mounsey clanged one off the left post which deflected in behind Warner for his first goal of the season to make it 3-0 New Hampshire. Sophomore Steve Saviano and Tyler Scott assisted for the Wildcats. New Hampshire boasts the top three scorers in Hockey East (Haydar, Hemingway, and freshman Sean Collins).
UMass had two good chances in the early going, but Ayers stopped a point-blank bid by Greg Mauldin, then just seconds later, somehow got his stick on a shot by Darcy King, who seemingly had a wide-open net to shoot at.
“The saves happened so quickly. On the second one, I couldn’t see the guy at the point. The rebound came out when I was down, and I was just lucky to be able to get over and get my stick on it,” said Ayers.
With senior Matt Carney out of the lineup with a concussion suffered last Sunday against Providence, Ayers got double duty this weekend.
“This was a strong weekend for me. With BU and Maine coming up, we needed to get on a roll a bit here,” said Ayers.
The Minutemen finally got on the board at the 17:42 mark, with freshman Peter Trovato connecting on a rebound for his third of the season, to narrow the gap to 3-1 in favor of the Wildcats. The teams finished the first period with the Wildcats holding a 16-7 shot advantage.
Both teams fought a tough defensive battle in the second period. The Minutemen’s best chance came at the 15:16 mark. Sophomore Mike Warner — goalie Tim’s brother — hit the post to the right of Ayers, and the Wildcats were able to control the rebound. On the ensuing rush, Tim Warner stuck out his left pad to foil Prudden’s front-door attempt.
“Those are the kind of saves he’s going to have to make in the future if he’s going to be a stopper,” said Cahoon of Tim Warner. “He did stop some golden opportunities for them. Right now, though, it’s not enough for this league. Hopefully, this will be a good learning experience for him.”
New Hampshire’s Pat Foley broke the second period scoring drought by notching his first of the night and fourth goal of the season with a wrister from ten feet out, which Warner never had a chance on, for a 4-1 UNH lead. Prudden and junior Jim Abbott assisted. Through two periods, UNH held a 24-18 advantage in shots on goal.
Sean Collins got on the scoring sheet at the 13:15 mark of the third. The freshman phenom, who is second in Hockey East in rookie goal-scoring behind Maine’s Colin Shields, took a pass from Truelson and blew past two UMass defenders, putting the puck past Warner for a 5-1 UNH advantage. Foley scored his second goal of the game at 18:50 to close out the scoring at 6-1, UNH. It was the third power-play goal of the night for the Wildcats, who last year languished at the bottom of Hockey East in terms of power play efficiency.
UNH outshot the Minutemen, 38-25 for the game.
The Minutemen have been plagued the last two years with a lack of scoring, converting just 2.2 goals per game this season.
“We broke a record last year for the fewest goals scored in Hockey East,” quipped Cahoon. “And it’s been a real struggle for us again this season. It’s certainly something that we’re looking at in terms of recruiting.
“We’re not anywhere near the kind of offensive team that UNH is.”
New Hampshire hosts archrival Boston University next Friday, while UMass-Amherst plays at Northeastern.