MANCHESTER, N.H. — In the Battle for the Riverstone Cup VIII, No. 13 New Hampshire (11-6-4) skated away with a 6-4 victory over No. 18 Dartmouth (10-6-0). The Granite State rivals put on an action-packed show for 8,001 hockey fans Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena, where the Wildcats extended their unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1).
It was an offensive game for UNH, as six Wildcats got at least two points apiece. Senior Jerry Pollastrone collected the Cup’s MVP honors as well as a goal and an assist [on the game-winner].
“The four years I’ve been here [at Verizon Wireless Arena] every game has been a little crazy you know,” said Pollastrone. “I mean Dartmouth is a great team. They’re tough to play against so any win you can get here at Riverstone is a good win.”
The action started early in the first period at 4:50 when UNH senior co-captain Greg Collins dished the puck from between the circles in the Big Green zone to Peter LeBlanc waiting at the post to put it in glove side past Dartmouth goalie Jody O’Neill [32 saves].
The Big Green missed some freebies on net in the first; sophomores Scott Fleming and Kyle Reeds both had wide-open net opportunities, but they mishandled the puck, juggling it to their own disadvantage.
Dartmouth finally got control and scored when sophomore Matt Reber broke away with the puck from the neutral zone, passing two Wildcats along the way. Reber went one-on-one with UNH goalie Brian Foster [20 saves] and sent the puck in banging off the post stick side past the junior netminder at 13:55.
UNH answered right back when Collins passed from the blue line to junior Bobby Butler waiting center at the left faceoff circle. Butler potted his sixth goal of the season at 15:39.
The physical spark between the state’s only two Div. I college hockey teams was evident throughout the game, with 11 penalties called.
“We like the balance on the team, good balance on our lines, everyone is contributing,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We could have done a better job tonight by not getting penalties, but offensively we’re alright.”
At 16:26 Wildcat sophomore Danny Dries and junior Big Greener Joe Gaudet tackled each other, bringing the ref down with them, eventually heading to the box for roughing.
A four-on-four led to another Wildcats’ goal at 18:13 when senior Kevin Kapstad took a shot from the left point. Butler dove and got a hold of the puck in front of the net, and Pollastrone was there to tap in the rebound to put the Wildcats up by two. Kapstad’s assist extends his point streak to nine games (1G, 10A).
The second period consisted of four more goals, the first of which came just over a minute in. Big Green rookie Doug Jones sent the puck just wide of the net off a shot from the left faceoff circle, but sophomore Andrew Owsiak was there in front of Foster to grab the puck and slip it in to cut the deficit to one.
The aggression picked up again towards the end of the period when Wildcat Phil DeSimone was called for roughing at 11:55 after climbing out of mountain of padded bodies piled atop O’Neill’s crease.
UNH stole the momentum back after killing the penalty. From between the circles, freshman Steve Moses shot directly at O’Neill, producing a rebound that sophomore Danny Dries slapped right in on his drive to the net at 14:40.
The Wildcats weren’t done yet however. Just 2:03 later, rookie defenseman Blake Kessel made it look easy, scoring the game-winner from the left point off a pass from Pollastrone.
Another scuffle ensued at the Big Green crease and this time UNH’s James van Riemsdyk was sent to the box for tripping at 17:24, despite a booing crowd.
This time, Dartmouth capitalized with the man advantage in the Wildcats’ zone when sophomore Evan Stephens took a shot from the right point and classmate Adam Estoclet was there in front of the net to tip in the puck at 18:50 for a power-play goal, making the score 5-3.
In the third stanza, Dartmouth generated another power-play goal when Dries got two minutes for hitting from behind. Jones got the puck out of the corner, took it to Foster in net, and nabbed the unassisted goal at 11:57.
UNH got one more goal when Dries dished the puck from the right corner behind Dartmouth’s net to DeSimone in the center of the slot, who then drove around a Dartmouth defender and tallied the Wildcats’ final goal of the night at 15:58.
“We like playing in this building and I wanted to prove tonight that they can win here,” said Umile. “We play Maine, and if things go well in the season the second half then we’ll come back here and play in the NCAA tournament.”