DURHAM, N.H. — No. 19 New Hampshire (7-6-3, 5-4-2 HE) swept this weekend’s home-and-home series with No. 17 Mass.-Lowell (8-7-0, 5-5-0 HE) with a 3-2 come-from-behind win Saturday night at the Whittemore Center.
The win for the Wildcats was not an easy one. The offense had trouble burying the puck in the beginning of the game. The Wildcats created opportunities for themselves [with nine shots on net to UML's three] but they couldn’t put one past Lowell goaltender Nevin Hamilton, who made 28 saves in the loss.
“The reason why we were still around is because our goaltender was our best player,” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “I thought Nevin played terrific.”
UNH coach Dick Umile also credited the opposing goalie. “It was a great game for us, a great win,” said Umile. “We would have been disappointed because I think it’s as well as we’ve played all season tonight. But Hamilton I thought was tremendous. He made some spectacular saves.”
UNH started it off strong with a couple drives to the Lowell net down the right side; the first from James van Riemsdyk and the second when Thomas Fortney got the puck off a Steve Moses pass from the center. Both attempts ended with the puck in Hamilton’s glove.
The River Hawks got on the board first just under two minutes into the game. New Hampshire netminder Brian Foster saved a shot, but accidentally sent the puck to the top of the crease instead of dumping it off to the side to his teammate. Lowell’s Sammy D’Agostino was there to chop the puck high in the net past Foster at 1:51 in the first period.
The Wildcats continued having a hard time offensively, missing more opportunities to put the puck in the net. Paul Thompson got a breakaway after grabbing the puck in the neutral zone, but shot it far right of Hamilton.
Soon after, sophomore Mike Sislo went down the right wing, dished it to senior Jerry Pollastrone in the center who then took the shot, but banged the post.
The same play was repeated minutes later, only down the left wing, when Bobby Butler carried the puck, passed to co-captain Greg Collins who battled a lone defender in front of the net and let another opportunity slip past when Hamilton knocked the puck away.
The Wildcats hit the pipes multiple times in the second and out-shot the River Hawks by seven, and finally solved Hamilton. A River Hawk lost a stick in his own zone and UNH took advantage, passing the puck between the circles. Collins sent the puck in the net off a pass from Butler and Kevin Kapstad at 12:17. The assist for Kapstad adds on to his now four game point streak.
Lowell absorbed momentum when Joe Charlebois was sent to the box at 7:47 for holding and then fellow co-captain Collins joined him at 8:54 for boarding. The clock ticked down and UNH got to four men on the ice, but still couldn’t stop the River Hawks. Maury Edwards took a slap shot from the right point on the blue line and planted the puck in the upper left corner of the net past Foster at 10:44.
However, the River Hawks didn’t hold the lead for long. UNH answered back a little over a minute later when Pollastrone [the active career leading scorer against UML] got his first goal of the season at 11:58.
The Wildcats kept the aggression intact and when UML’s Edwards got two minutes for cross-checking at 16:31, UNH generated a power play goal of their own.
Freshman defender Blake Kessel got his second collegiate goal when he lifted the puck from the middle of the left circle and sent it through two River Hawk defenders to tally the game winner at 18:10.
“We finally broke through a little bit,” said Kessel. “We felt snaked there again when we got three or four posts again when nothing would go in for a while. Our seniors brought us to the table there. Somehow we squeaked out a win; it was through all our character and the guys that we have in the locker room.”
“Four points is huge,” Umile said. “It’s hard to get four points in this league. You don’t want to get swept, which has happened to us already this season. So the fact that we got four points, it puts us right back in the hunt. It’s a good way for Hockey East to kick us into the second half [of the season].”