DURHAM, N.H. — Seven different New Hampshire players scored en route to an 8-1 victory over the Acadia University Axemen in an exhibition game at the Whittemore Center.
Acadia hope to duplicate the exploits of New Brunswick and St. Francis Xavier, who upended UNH in consecutive exhibitions in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
That hope died quickly, as UNH used goals from senior captain Peter LeBlanc and freshman Austin Block only 42 seconds apart to take a quick 2-0 lead in the game’s first eight minutes.
“It felt good to get back finally playing a game again; I thought we played really well,” said UNH senior goaltender Brian Foster, who had 15 saves in the game.
The Axemen outshot New Hampshire 9-7 in the first period, but UNH came on strong in the second to widen their lead to 6-1 with goals from sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel and junior forwards Mike Sislo, Greg Manz and Paul Thompson.
“[The game] was good for our offensive confidence,” said LeBlanc, who had two goals in the game.
The Wildcats have a young team this year, but head coach Dick Umile was pleased with the performance of his 15 underclassmen.
Block had a goal and an assist in his first game, freshman defenseman Connor Hardowa had two assists and sophomore goaltender Matt DiGirolamo made six saves in the third period after relieving Foster.
Freshman forward Kevin McCarey also had a strong game, hitting two posts in the first two periods before notching a goal that rang off the crossbar and the left post before dropping in at 15:54 of the third period for New Hampshire’s final goal.
“We did a lot of good things and played a lot of young guys,” Umile said. “We made a few mistakes but those are the things you work on going forward.”
Four of New Hampshire’s goals came on the power play, and that was great news for Umile, who said the team hasn’t had a chance yet to work much on special teams.
“We went over it [the power play] this morning,” he said, “I thought they did a nice job and moved the puck well.”
Acadia scored its only goal on a power play as well, on what Foster called a “bad goal to give up.” Forward Doug Clarkson put a slap shot over Foster’s left shoulder from beyond the blue line at 7:42 of the second period, cutting the UNH lead to 4-1 at the time.
“The shot just came off weird,” Foster said. “I don’t know. I felt really good though; it was a good exhibition win.”
The Wildcats came back with two more goals in the second and two more in the third to finish the game with eight total, the most they’ve scored since last year’s exhibition victory, an 8-4 win against St. Francis Xavier.
Still, Umile said there are improvements to make before the regular season officially starts next week.
“I’m sure we’ll see a higher level of play next weekend,” Umile said. “It’s about defense. We need to work on the defensive aspect of our game.”
UNH travels to Troy, N.Y. next weekend for their regular-season opener against Rensselaer on Oct. 10. The Wildcats play their first home games against top-ranked Miami on Oct. 16-17.