MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire likes to pump up the power of its second line. But the guys on the first unit are no slouches, either. And neither is its goalie.
The third-ranked Wildcats left with their fourth win in six tries against Dartmouth in the annual Battle for the RiverStone Cup at Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night, using two late goals and 44 Kevin Regan saves for a 4-2 win over the Big Green. Regan made 17 saves in the first period and 18 more in the third to earn player-of-the-game honors in a victory secured by Kevin Kapstad and Brett Hemingway goals in the final six minutes of play.
“They just finish,” Dartmouth forward Jon Grecu said. “If you give them a chance, tic-tac-toe and it’s in the back of your net. They’re real skilled down low, real skilled moving the puck. You give them a chance, and they’re going to bury it.”
Regan — who had 43 stops in a wild 5-4 win over the Big Green (6-8-2) at the VWA last year — simply buried hope. He set the tone with nine saves before UNH netted its first shot halfway through the first period, and kept the Wildcats in a position of strength on a night in which they never trailed.
“We were fortunate that Kevin played well tonight,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said, “and fortunate that we were opportunistic and scored a couple of goals when we had to to win it.”
Kapstad netted the game-winner at 14:00 of the third period with a center-point bullet that eluded screened Dartmouth goaltender Mike Devine (24 saves). Hemingway followed at 16:22 with an easy putaway after linemate Josh Ciocco twisted past Big Green defender Mike Hartwick, circled the Dartmouth net and fed a wide-open Hemingway in the low left slot.
“You make a couple of mistakes, and it ends up in the back of your net,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “We just have to minimize that.”
The Big Green enjoyed a whopping 17-2 edge in shots over the first 20 minutes. Josh Gillam, Dan Shribman and Tanner Glass had the best opportunities in a three-minute stretch near the period’s mid-point, but Regan was equal to the task each time.
UNH finally woke up at 3:26 of the second on Jacob Micflikier’s Mc-flick of a goal, beating Devine’s glove by redirecting a Shawn Vinz corner feed. Kevin Swallow answered for Dartmouth at 7:19, tipping a T.J. Galiardi feed through Regan’s legs on a two-on-one.
Ciocco’s 25-footer through Devine’s pads at 6:12 of the third put UNH back on top, but Glass retied the game at 7:58 on a power play, throwing a puck past a screened Regan, who failed to hold the right post in traffic. It was the last mistake he’d make.
UNH, which is now 4-1-1 against Dartmouth in RiverStone games and 6-3-2 at the VWA all-time, plays Hockey East the rest of the way, starting with a game against Massachusetts on Friday back in Durham. The Big Green hosts three Atlantic Hockey sides next week, starting with Holy Cross on Tuesday.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.