DURHAM, N.H. — Thirteen players registered a point on the night, including five different goal-scorers, as No. 10 New Hampshire defeated Providence, 5-3, at the Whittemore Center.
Freshman Brett Hemingway, Sophomore Ed Caron, and junior Preston Callander all scored for the Wildcats. In addition, New Hampshire’s top line connected for two goals and two assists, ending a five game drought. Sean Collins scored his 10th goal of the season, and captain Steve Saviano recorded his team-leading 13th tally.
The victory provided a much-needed confidence boost for the Wildcats, who came into the contest at just 1-2-1 in their last four contests. New Hampshire improved to 12-7-3 (6-3-3 Hockey East), while Providence remained winless in its last four Hockey East contests, falling to 8-7-4 (2-6-3 Hockey East).
“This was a good, solid win for us,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “The guys weren’t going to be denied tonight.”
Providence coach Paul Pooley was generally pleased with his team’s effort, minus a few minutes in the second period.
“I told the guys to remember that discipline and focus for 60 minutes is essential,” said the 10-year coach of the Friars.
“For six minutes in the second period, we lost that discipline and focus, and it cost us the game.”
Indeed, the Wildcats scored three unanswered goals in a span of six minutes, 50 seconds during the second period that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
With UNH on the power play in the first period, senior defenseman Tim Horst sent a rocket from the Providence blue line that was tipped home by Hemingway for a 1-0 New Hampshire lead. The goal stood up as the only score of the first period.
Providence got right back into it early in the second period, with senior Peter Zingoni connecting for his tenth of the season just 17 seconds into the middle frame.
And when senior defenseman Stephen Wood potted his seventh of the season less than two minutes later, Providence had its only lead of the night at 2-1.
The Friars started David Cacciola in net for the second straight night. Coming off Friday’s impressive performance at home against these same Wildcats, in which the sophomore recorded a career-high 33 saves, Cacciola came into the contest with some impressive stats. He ranks second among Division one goaltenders in save percentage (.945) and third in goals against average (1.65)
But the Wildcats had been hungry for goals for a while, scoring just 14 goals in their last seven games. Something had to give.
With the Wildcats down 2-1 early in the second period, Collins scored as pretty a goal as you’ll ever see. Taking a cross-ice pass at the doorstep of the Providence goal from linemate Nathan Martz, Collins needed only to tap the puck past Cacciola to tie things up at 2-2.
“I was just trying to get to the net harder,” said Collins. “Martzie made a great pass to me back-door. Once we got that one, we got the confidence to get the second and third one after.”
Just three minutes later, Saviano sent home a rebound off a Brian Yandle shot on the power play, and the Wildcats had the lead back.
“We worked hard all week in practice. We just wanted to keep the same game plan,” said Saviano. “If we score, it seems contagious. We’re the top line and we should be doing that.”
New Hampshire went up 4-2 as the result of some good hard work by Eddie Caron. Positioned as any power forward would be in front of the opposing goalie, Caron beat a defender to the puck in the slot, wheeled around and put the puck past Cacciola.
But even the roar of the partisan crowd after that goal from the fan-favorite Caron couldn’t outdo the din echoed throughout the Whitt when, with less than two minutes left in the period, the score flashed up on the scoreboard:
Patriots 7, Titans 0.
Suddenly, life was grand.
And just as the Patriots would hold on to victory in their game, New Hampshire held on to their own. Preston Callander and Colin McDonald finished out the scoring for the 5-3 final.
“We lost the special team’s battle tonight,” conceded Pooley, as the Friars surrendered power-play goals on both of the Wildcats’ opportunities, while going just 2-6 on their own extra-man chances.
“It seemed every time we made a mistake, (the puck) was in the back of the net.”
Providence next plays at Northeastern on Friday, while New Hampshire takes on intrastate rival Dartmouth at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. Game time for both contests is 7 p.m.