LOWELL, Mass. — For the second week in a row, New Hampshire made the most of its chances.
Despite being outshot badly throughout most of the game, UNH proved to be opportunistic, scoring two power play goals and getting solid goaltending from junior Kevin Regan, as the No. 10 Wildcats defeated gritty UMass Lowell, 5-2, at Tsongas Arena.
On November 12, New Hampshire was also out-shot for the game against archrival and No. 1 Maine at Alfond Arena, but the Wildcats prevailed in that game as well, handing the Black Bears their first loss of the season in an 8-2 win.
With the victory, New Hampshire improved to 6-2-1 overall, 4-1-1 in Hockey East, and the Wildcats snapped a four-game winless streak at Tsongas Arena, where they had been 0-2-2. UMass Lowell dropped just its second game in the last seven to fall to 3-3-3 (2-2-2).
Sophomore Jerry Pollastrone was the big gun for UNH, with two goals and two assists.
“UNH is certainly a very explosive offensive team. They play with grit, they get to loose pucks, and they’re very opportunistic. That is a team that is going to be one of the best in our league,” said River Hawks coach Blaise MacDonald. “Its easy to get excited to play a great team like UNH.”
UMass Lowell certainly seemed excited from the drop of the puck, as the River Hawks continually pressured UNH and for most of the period out-battled the Wildcats.
Flashy freshman Chris Auger got the River Hawks on the board first, re-directing a shot from the point by senior J.R. Bria to the delight of the crowd. UMass Lowell had a commanding 9-3 shot advantage at the end of the first 20 minutes and the lead, 1-0.
Pollastrone got his first tally of the evening off a nice feed from classmate Trevor Smith, who threaded the needle to a streaking Pollastrone just outside the crease. The Salisbury Prep product sent the puck five-hole through the wickets of freshman netminder Carter Hutton for his third goal of the season to tie the score at 1-1.
Just 16 seconds later, the roles were reversed, as Pollastrone returned the favor and set up Smith on a 2-on-1 break. Smith beat Hutton stick side for his 10thgoal of the season.
UMass Lowell got even at the 6:09 mark of the middle stanza on a great individual effort by freshman Frank Stegnar, who rushed down the right side, beat the UNH defender, and put a tough shot on goal that was saved by Regan. Sophomore Mark Roebothan followed up the play nicely and sent the puck past the sprawled Regan to tie the score at 2-2.
But penalties proved to be costly for the River Hawks towards the end of the second period.
With Bria out for boarding and senior defenseman Cleve Kinley in the sin bin for hooking, Pollastrone connected for his second goal of the game with UNH enjoying a two-man advantage. Pollastrone sent a quick wrist shot from the left circle that appeared to clang off the crossbar.
“I heard a ‘ding’ after I shot it,” said Pollastrone of the goal, his fourth of the season. “It’s a matter of capitalizing on the opportunities we have.”
UMass Lowell gave up a back-breaker with just 28 seconds left in the period, as Mike Radja continued his torrid scoring pace with his eighth goal of the season after UNH had been buzzing the River Hawks net.
The Wildcats, despite being outshot 21-14 for the game, had a two-goal lead entering the third period.
“I thought we were in complete control in the second period,” said MacDonald. “Then we took some inopportune penalties. They (UNH) really capitalized on their opportunities.”
MacDonald pulled Hutton at the start of the third period and inserted sophomore Vinny Monaco to try and ignite a fire under his team. Senior captain Jason Tejchma put a tester on Regan during an early River Hawks power play, and Tejchma had another chance with UMass Lowell on a two-man advantage, but he couldn’t send home a pass on the doorstep from freshman Paul Worthington.
Junior Matt Fornataro put the final nail in the coffin for UNH finishing off a pretty feed from Pollastrone.
“We haven’t won here too often. They came at us hard. Westill have too many penalties and we can’t have that. But a good win for us and we’ll take it,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile.
Despite the loss, MacDonald likes what he sees from his young squad.
“I liked our speed, puck possession, and the fact that we created a lot of good scoring opportunities. We’re playing 11 freshmen and 4 sophomores. So I’m extremely pleased.”
The two teams square off again Saturday, this time at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. Gametime is at 7 pm.