DURHAM, N.H. — Eleventh ranked New Hampshire defeated Hockey East foe Maine, 4-1, Friday in a physical battle at the Whittemore Center. Wildcats James van Riemsdyk, Mike Sislo, and Jamie Fritsch all had two points apiece in their team’s sixth consecutive win against the Black Bears.
A total of 20 penalties ensued throughout the night, yet only five power-play opportunities for each team.
But as soon as the puck dropped, the Wildcats dominated the game, shutting down the Black Bears who only generated three shots on net in the first stanza.
“I just thought that out of the gate in the first period we just couldn’t match UNH’s intensity and execution,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We just left ourselves vulnerable. I felt bad for David [Wilson], I thought he played well, but we just gave up too many grade-A chances during the game and we couldn’t come back.”
The Wildcats (13-8-4 overall, 9-6-3 in Hockey East) out shot Maine by 11 in the first, and they didn’t waste any time waiting to get one past Black Bear goal tender Dave Wilson [28 saves]. With just 1:45 into the game, sophomore Danny Dries lifted the puck from the center slot in the Maine zone, sending it over Wilson’s left shoulder to put the Wildcats on the board.
The aggression continued against the Black Bears when senior Jamie Fritsch cleared the puck from the Wildcat zone getting it to freshman Mike Borisenok in the neutral zone. On the drive between defenders, the rookie drop passed it to classmate Steve Moses coming down the right wing who then tallied his third goal of the season at 5:17.
Kevin Kapstad got UNH’s first penalty at 16:23 when he was called simultaneously for contact to the head roughing with Maine’s Will O’Neill. And just as both teams got back to five on five, Fritsch got two minutes for tripping and two for cross-checking [served by Borisenok] while Maine’s Jeff Dimmen was put in the box for roughing. Then with one second left in the period, Maine’s captain Simon Danis-Pepin took a quick seat for obstruction holding.
The penalty that did make a difference came at 2:10 in the second period when Paul Thompson was caught hitting from behind. Maine (11-13-3, 6-10-2) finally took advantage, knotting a power play goal past Brian Foster [21 saves] off a Matt Duffy slap shot from the blue line at 3:25.
A minute later, UNH’s Bobby Butler was sent to the box for hooking, but the Wildcats conjured up momentum despite being a man down. The turning point in the game was when sophomore Mike Sislo drove down the right wing, dished it to line mate James van Riemsdyk in center, who then shot what looked like a one-hander past Wilson to get his second shorthanded goal of the season at 5:07.
“That was a great play by Mike to send it over to James,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “James went to the net with the stick and Michael passed it and James re-directed it; it was a big goal in the game. Then he returned a nice play to Mike. Mike held it- that’s a patent shot for him- you know going high in the upper corner.”
Six penalties and 10 minutes later was when New Hampshire’s sensational sophomores stepped up once again. The puck went from Phil DeSimone to van Riemsdyk in the Maine zone, and eventually to Sislo who shot a wrister from the right circle potting his 16th goal of the season. Sislo’s goal marked the final of the night, as a scoreless third period followed.
“Those two [van Riemsdyk, Sislo] do have great chemistry,” said Umile. “They kill penalties together, they obviously run the power play, and four on four we put them together. It was a good win for us, but obviously we’ll focus on tomorrow night now.”
The two teams face off again Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH.