NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — New Hampshire struck for three second-period goals in just three and a half minutes to defeat Merrimack, 4-1. Freshman goaltender Kevin Regan added 30 saves to earn the game’s No. 1 star.
The win gives New Hampshire (6-2-1, 3-1-0 HEA) four in its last five contests.
“You gain confidence with every game,” UNH coach Richard Umile said. “We’ve fallen behind two games in a row, but the guys stayed focused and it’s a 60-minute hockey game. I like the way they’re responding. They’re playing with confidence and know that [they just need to] keep the pace and generate the opportunities.
“It was a good road win for us. [Merrimack coach] Chris [Serino] always gets the most out of his team and they battle and you really need to earn it down here. It was a tough game and we expected that.”
The loss for Merrimack (3-8-0, 1-6-0) was its third in five days after a sweep at the hands of Boston University. The Warriors have now dropped five of six.
Despite having four forwards out of the lineup, they still gave the sixth-ranked Wildcats a fight, but fell to the UNH offensive explosion.
“That’s why they’re good,” Serino said. “They take advantage of their opportunities. When they get a chance to put it away, they put it away. They’re patient, waiting to break you down, and they break you down.
“For a couple periods we played pretty well. The two areas I was disappointed in was our play in-zone — we didn’t do a good job there and had some breakdowns — and we didn’t execute our odd-man rushes. We had maybe eight or nine odd-man rushes and didn’t get quality shots from the rushes.”
In a scoreless first period, Merrimack out-attempted UNH, 20-10, that translated into an 11-7 shot advantage. Grade A scoring opportunities, however, were in short supply for both teams.
The second period was an entirely different story as each team got 16 shots on net including many more quality chances. Merrimack got on the scoreboard first at 4:47. Rob LaLonde put the puck on net from the left point through traffic and Steve Crusco whacked the rebound in five-hole for his first goal of the year.
Three minutes later, UNH freshman Brian Pouliot ripped a shot top shelf from the slot to even the game. It was Pouliot’s first collegiate goal.
“It seemed like it was moving in slow motion out there,” he said. “I don’t think the goalie quite saw it and I didn’t really see much of it either while I got knocked down. But I got up and it was in. It was a big goal and a weight off my shoulders.”
The Wildcats struck again from the slot a minute later with the game-winner coming from Jacob Micflikier.
Completing the three-goal, three-and-a-half minute UNH outburst was a Brian Yandle shot from the right point that beat McLaughlin to the low far side for a 3-1 lead.
While the Merrimack netminder might have been kicking himself a bit for the latter goal, he kept his team within striking distance when he stopped Mike Radja’s deke attempt soon after on a two-on-one with Yandle.
UNH tightened up its defensive game in the third period, allowing only four shots. Merrimack’s hopes began to dwindle as the time continued to tick away without a goal to get within one. Realistically, the last gasp came on a power play at 15:53, but the Warriors failed to get any significant chances. The final nail in the coffin came when Micflikier scored an empty net goal with 58 seconds remaining.
New Hampshire returns to action this weekend when it plays a home-and-home series with Northeastern while Merrimack is off until next Tuesday when it hosts Northeastern.