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Last Score Wins: New Hampshire Knocks Off Northeastern

— Some say the hardest lead to hold in hockey is a two-goal advantage.

What fools.

Northeastern and visiting New Hampshire proved that adage wrong Saturday night, demonstrating that a one-goal edge is much tougher to keep. The teams combined to surrender four one-goal leads.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats (8-2-1, 5-1-0) blew three of the four but scored four times in the third period to leave Boston with a 7-4 win and a weekend sweep of the Huskies (5-5-1, 2-2-0).

Northeastern climbed out of a one-goal deficit for the last time on a shorthanded effort from sophomore Ray Ortiz (two goals) with four minutes left in the second period. Ortiz blocked a point shot from senior Justin Aikins and then fought the co-captain off at center ice to earn a breakaway which he sent past UNH freshman goalie Kevin Regan (37 saves) to knot the score at 3.

With just 24 seconds left in the frame, NU senior captain Jason Guerriero gave the Huskies their only lead of the night, finishing off a pass from fellow senior Donny Grover (two assists).

Northeastern lost that lead 6:29 into the third period when fourth-line junior Mark Kolanos carried the puck end-to-end and sent a wrist shot over the paddle of NU goalie Keni Gibson (31 saves).

“They really took it away from us in our own building,” NU coach Bruce Crowder said. “We had a 4-3 lead and had some great opportunities early in the first four minutes (of the third period) and we weren’t able to get the fifth one. They kept battling and kept skating and we kind of stopped skating a bit.

“We gave up a tough fourth goal,” he said. “It was pretty much a fourth-line guy going end-to-end and that looked like he should be playing in the American League somewhere since the NHL is on strike.

“Those are the things that we can’t have. We talked about it quite a bit, they’re a team that goes across the middle a lot in the neutral zone and we’ve got to make sure that we’re holding the blue line. We basically gave up the blue line, our two D crashed into each other and gave him the opportunity to have a good shot.”

UNH took the lead for good 1:45 later, when sophomore Brett Hemingway buried a rebound amid a mass of players in front of the Northeastern crease.

From there, the Wildcats did what neither team could do prior — hold a lead.

Sophomore Josh Ciocco (two goals) broke up a two-on-one with seven minutes left, Regan barely kicked a tough slapshot from Tim Judy wide with six minutes left and sophomore Jacob Micflikier negated a Northeastern power play by drawing a penalty of his own with an impressive forechecking effort with four minutes to play.

“We did what we had to do to get the win tonight and I credit our guys for taking care of our end first,” UNH co-captain Preston Callander said. “We knew we had the go-ahead goal. All we needed to do was take care of our end and guys did it.”

“We played a solid third period and really finished it well down the stretch,” Wildcat coach Dick Umile said. “We’re getting a little bit better each weekend. If you win games like this against teams like this, it only makes you better.

“It obviously was a great weekend of hockey and a real battle back and forth there between two pretty evenly matched teams,” he added. “I’m just thrilled with the way we came out in the third period, especially after the second period.”

UNH took the first two-goal lead of the game with 2:25 left, as Matt Fornataro found Daniel Winnik for a power-play strike. New Hampshire added to its lead with an empty-net goal by Ciocco as the clock read 0.9 seconds.

Ciocco also scored the game’s first goal, steering the rebound of a Chris Murray shot around Gibson 5:21 into the first period.

NU’s Brian Swiniarski answered that tally with a power-play goal less than a minute later. Guerriero fed the junior at the right slot, who turned and fired a bullet past Regan 6:12 into the game.

The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission after Fornataro buried the rebound of a point shot that slipped in and out of Gibson’s glove with 2:23 left in the first period.

In the second period, Ortiz tapped in his first goal of the game when sophomore Yale Lewis fed a pass to him through the UNH crease. Robbie Barker answered for UNH three minutes later by taking a slap shot from the point that deflected off somebody in front before getting behind Gibson.

Ten minutes later, Ortiz sent a backhand through Regan’s pads on his shorthanded breakaway.

UNH will play at UMass-Lowell Tuesday and at Vermont Saturday. Northeastern will travel to Merrimack Tuesday before hosting Boston College Saturday night.

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