DURHAM, N.H. — University of New Hampshire senior captain Bobby Butler and junior forward Paul Thompson scored two goals apiece as the Wildcats built a four-goal, first-period lead en route to a 7-2 victory over the No. 16 Massachusetts Minutemen on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H.
“It was a very uninspired performance; I apologize to the entire UMass hockey community and anybody that’s followed this program for that showing,” Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon said. “Tonight, we played like a defeated group of people; we were lackluster in so many ways. We had so many number of players, defensively in particular, that played poorer than I’ve ever seen them play.”
The onslaught started when UNH defenseman Blake Kessel slapped a quick shot toward the net and Thompson redirected the puck through the legs of Massachusetts goalie Dan Meyers only 4:52 into the first period.
“We came out with a lot of energy and I think what it did is say that’s how we’re going to play and that’s who we are; we played with good pace and we were aggressive,” UNH coach Dick Umile said.
Butler scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season 37 seconds later when Thompson stole the puck from a Minuteman defender behind the net and sent the puck to Butler out front. Butler moved to his right and slid a shot past Meyers for a 2-0 UNH lead.
“It started out with the first shift; we got every line going and that was a big part of the game tonight,” Butler said. “We wanted to win one period at a time and that’s what we did tonight.”
Thompson scored his second goal later in the period, a short-handed tally at 16:37, when he and Butler raced up ice on a two-on-one break and capitalized on another Massachusetts’ turnover. Sophomore forward Kevin McCarey added to the Minutemen misery with a fancy move through a Massachusetts’ defender and a quick shot past Meyers for the Wildcats’ fourth goal of the opening frame.
UNH came out firing in the first period against the Minutemen after a sloppy game the night before that led to a 2-2 tie against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks.
“After our poor performance in the first period last night [against Massachusetts-Lowell], I thought we could hopefully put all that behind us and we came out with good pace,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “I was very pleased; they kept it simple and played very well.”
Massachusetts responded with an unassisted goal 23 seconds into the second period by T.J. Syner, who roofed a wrist shot over UNH goaltender Brian Foster to cut the UNH lead to 4-1.
The Minutemen couldn’t take advantage of the early momentum shift however; Butler and Kessel scored additional goals for the Wildcats to extend their lead to 6-1 by the end of the second, including Kessel’s slap shot from the top of the point that whizzed past Meyers, nicked the crossbar and dropped in for a 6-1 lead at 15:17.
UNH and Massachusetts traded goals late in the third period only 17 seconds apart, as Minutemen forward Rocco Carzo scored at 17:33 to cut the Wildcats lead to 6-2 before UNH sophomore Stevie Moses struck back at 17:50 to complete the scoring.
The win boosts UNH’s record to 9-7-4 and assures them of another week in first place in the Hockey East standings — they are 9-2-3 in conference play. Massachusetts, meanwhile, drops to 11-8-0 overall and 6-6-0 in Hockey East.
“Three years running we have gone into Christmas as a team of the future and a team that is to be reckoned with and three years running we have fallen right on our face,” Cahoon said. “We have to look at each other every day and we’re the only ones that can solve this.”
The Minutemen travel to Northeastern University for another conference game tomorrow afternoon and will play a home-and-home series with nearby Massachusetts-Lowell next weekend. Meanwhile, UNH will try to win its first non-conference game next weekend against Dartmouth University on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.