DURHAM, N.H. — Preston Callander scored twice on the power play, and a three-goal first period gave No. 10 New Hampshire a 5-4 win over Mercyhurst in front of an announced 6,501 fans at the Whittemore Center.
“Mercyhurst wouldn’t go away, and we couldn’t get that next goal to put them away, and it allowed (Mercyhurst) to keep getting back into the game,” said head coach Dick Umile. “We had quite a few opportunities to put the game away, but we just couldn’t get it done. We generated some offense as a team, which is good — now we just need to get better as a team defensively.”
The Wildcats got on the board early, scoring at the 1:47 mark of the first period, as all three UNH goals in the first frame came within the first ten minutes. Tyson Teplitsky collected a rebound in the slot and made quick work of the opportunity, rifling the puck past Mercyhurst netminder Andy Franck before he could reposition himself. Teplitsky’s goal was the first point of the season for the senior defenseman.
New Hampshire added to its lead on its first power play of the evening. Callander upped the Wildcat advantage to 2-0 after walking into the slot from the left dot unobstructed and scoring at 6:22.
Jacob Micflikier made it 3-0 UNH at 8:54 after he redirected a Brad Flaishans blast from the point. Franck had little chance at the shot, having a gaggle of skaters in front of his crease.
Franck gained some composure heading into the intermission, denying the Wildcats the second-chance opportunities that had cost him in the opening minutes. New Hampshire skated into the break up 3-0, outshooting the Lakers 19-10.
Mercyhurst broke up UNH goaltender Jeff Pietrasiak’s bid at a shutout just 21 seconds into the second, and shorthanded to boot. Dave Borrelli drove into the Wildcat zone with the puck from the blueline, beating Pietrasiak cleanly to cut the New Hampshire lead to 3-1.
Callander pushed the lead back to three at 3:26 with his second power-play goal of the game. Making a great move in front of the net, Callander went from forehand to backhand before sticking the puck in short-side.
The squads added three more power-play goals before the end of the second, as the Lakers collected two to the Wildcats one.
Scott Champagne scored on a blast from the point for Mercyhurst at 5:30, while Matt Fornataro collected a loose puck in front of the Mercyhurst net at 8:42 for his first goal in a Wildcat sweater.
Ben Cottreau gave Mercyhurst the final tally of the second, thanks to a little help from Champagne and T.J. Kemp at 14:51, making it 5-3 UNH after two.
The Wildcats stepped up the intensity in the third period, but Franck put on a goaltending showcase. His best save of the night came midway through the period, a spectacular grab of a Brett Hemingway blast off a draw in the Laker zone.
Mercyhurst didn’t go as quietly as the Wildcats would have hoped, as Borrelli scored his second of the game on the power play in the final minute of the contest. The Lakers looked for the equalizer after pulling within one, but a late penalty call against Mercyhurst subdued its chances.
“Thank goodness that there wasn’t too much time left when Mercyhurst scored that goal at the end,” said Umile.
Pietrasiak finished the evening with 23 saves for the Wildcats, while Franck stopped a total of 45. Both teams benefited on special teams, as Mercyhurst was 3-for-4 with the man-up, as well as the shorthanded goal, while the Wildcats were 3-for-8 with the extra attacker.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but I thought our guys showed a lot of determination and character,” remarked Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin afterwards. “When we undertook this portion of our schedule, playing two at Wisconsin last week and one here at New Hampshire, we knew that we could be 0-3 at this point of the schedule.
“We didn’t play very well in the first period, and I give UNH credit for that. They have an excellent team, and every team that Coach Umile coaches is an excellent team. We had trouble in our own defensive zone, we couldn’t control the UNH guys down low in our zone. We were getting eaten alive in our defensive-zone coverage, and before we knew it, it was 3-0.”
Tuesday Mercyhurst (0-3-0) will host its first home game of the season against Robert Morris at 7 p.m., before embarking on a 10-game road trip over the next 45 days. New Hampshire (4-1-1) is off until Friday, November 5, when the Wildcats open up Hockey East play at home against Boston University on the CSTV Game of the Week at 8 p.m.