DURHAM, N.H. — As the students on college campuses everywhere approach finals week for the first semester, the Wildcats of New Hampshire had their final test of their first semester at home against Holy Cross. It proved to be a wild victory as they surrendered a four-goal lead only to score five unanswered goals in the third period, a nice early Christmas gift for Coach Dick Umile.
New Hampshire scored the first four goals of the game, and looked extremely dominant early. However, Holy Cross tied it at four during the second period, and the stage was set for an interesting third period. Coach Umile talked about his speech during the second intermission.
It was down to a 20 minute hockey game, there was no score, said Umile. Youve got to clear your head and put it behind you. So make up your mind, its all about how we are going to feel at Christmas time.
Youve got to play sixty minute hockey games. We just gave up a 4-0 lead, thats basically what we did in the second period, but you know, they played a solid third period, they did what they had to do. There was some good scoring going on, some good things on the power play, good puck movement. You know scoring has been difficult, so Im going to take that as a positive.
The Wildcats top line of James van Riemsdyk, Mike Sislo, and Jerry Pollastrone proved to the 4,014 in attendance at the Whittemore center why they were just that. They combined for six goals and eight assist, totaling 14 points between them, overpowering and out-skating the Holy Cross defense.
The Wildcats first tally came when van Riemsdyk floated a beautiful touch pass off his backhand from the left of Holy Cross goalie Adam Roy. His pass was one timed into the top left corner by line-mate Pollastrone for his second goal of the year. They wasted little time getting back in the scoring column, as UNH netted their second goal just over a minute later. This time it came as Greg Collins initial shot was knocked down by a crowd out front of Holy Cross goaltender Adam Roy. Thomas Fortney seemed to be the only one who could locate the puck, and put home the rebound to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
New Hampshire did not let up, and struck again at 8:09 of the first. Pollastrone scored his second goal of the period when he walked in from the half-boards to the faceoff circle on the right side and fired a wrister through a van Riemsdyk screen under the right arm of goalie Adam Roy. The Wildcats fourth goal of the period was scored on the power play as van Riemsdyk slid a pass from the right faceoff dot through the slot where Sislo was waiting to put home his eighth goal of the year.
The Crusaders got one back at the end of the first on a power play. It was during a four-on-three when Brodie Sheehan netted his fifth goal of the year as his shot from the point went top shelf. Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl talked about that big goal.
We needed to do something to kind of stem their momentum. We had started playing a little bit better there towards that last five minutes (of the first period), ended up getting a power play and we have some pretty good guys when you have those opportunities. Brodie buried it pretty good for us.
The Wildcats outshot the Crusaders, 13-8, in the first period, but Holy Cross climbed right back into the game with three unanswered goals in the second period, knotting the score at 4. The first came at 10:20, when Jordan Cyr picked up a loose puck in the slot and fired a wrist shot that beat UNH goalie Brian Foster five-hole. Holy Cross cut the lead to one just fifteen seconds later as J.P. Martignetti carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot from the right point that was mishandled by Foster, finding the back of the net for his second goal of the year.
Cyr struck again three minutes later as he picked up a rebound to the right of Foster and slid it home, tying the game. Foster then gave way to freshman Matt DiGirolamo. Coach Umile commented on making the switch.
Youve got to give credit to Matt DiGirolamo, he was put in a tough situation, especially after his last outing. You throw him out there and he made a couple good saves early, clutch saves, and that relaxed him I think.
Coach Dick Umiles words during the second intermission helped to focus his team. New Hampshire went on top, 5-4, just 15 seconds into the frame and never looked back. Sislos second goal of the game proved to be the game winner.
The puck popped over to Sislo and he got it in deep, van Riemsdyk said of the goal. I just took it around the net, and I knew there were going to be a couple of guys going to the net. I didnt planning on it going right to his stick, but Sislo made a great play on going to the front of the net, and just popped it in.
That, according to Umile, was the real momentum swinger for the Wildcats.
I thought it was real important to get the goal early in the third period, said Umile. That was huge for momentum. They come out of the second period feeling pretty good, they got us tied up 4-4, so it was important to come out and get a quick one.
Sislo scored again about seven minutes later to give the Wildcats a two goal lead that they would not give up. Van Riemsdyk dropped a pass back to Sislo in the slot, who picked the top corner, giving him his hat trick.
Hes probably got the best shot on the team, and he proved it out there tonight, said van Riemsdyk of his linemate, Sislo.
Van Riemsdyk, Dries, and Sislo added three more goals as UNH dominated play in the third period from start to finish.
Sislo acknowledged the importance of finishing saying, Thats kind of been one of our struggles for the first part of the year, is being able to finish and we had gotten opportunities and hadnt been able to finish but tonight we were able to bear down and finish on our plays.
They certainly did, and it only took forty minutes of great hockey from the Wildcats to defeat the Crusaders. The Wildcats play the Black Bears next at Maine on January 4 while Holy Cross will participate in the Denver Cup beginning January 2nd, facing host Denver in the opening round.