Manchester, N.H. — New Hampshire junior forward Paul Thompson scored two goals for the second straight game and sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel had four assists as the Wildcats won the Riverstone Trophy and defeated the Dartmouth Big Green, 5-2, in the teams’ annual game at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
“I thought we battled really hard; I thought we worked really hard as a team, but that’s been how it’s been for us,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “We just need to stay with it and get some bounces.”
The Wildcats capitalized on two Dartmouth penalties in the second period, scoring two goals only 55 seconds apart. First, on a two-man advantage, junior forward Phil DeSimone made a cross-ice pass through the crease to senior co-captain Bobby Butler, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, who one-timed it from just above the goal line and sent it past Dartmouth goalie Jody O’Neill to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
Then, with time still remaining on the Wildcats’ power play, senior co-captain Peter LeBlanc scored on a slap shot from the right circle that deflected off of Dartmouth defenseman Connor Goggin, knuckled through the air, flew over O’Neill’s shoulder, and fell into the net for a 4-2 New Hampshire lead at 13:24 of the second period.
“They’ve got a very skilled team,” Gaudet said. “The five-on-three really hurt us in the second period. That’s a huge difference, to go from a 2-2 game to a 4-2 game.”
The Wildcats added their final goal when Thompson scored on the power play with a hard shot over O’Neill’s right shoulder at 10:59 of the third period.
“Paul Thompson is playing extremely well right now,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said. “He’s not only a threat offensively, but I think the most important thing is that he’s killing penalties and playing extremely well defensively to create opportunities.”
New Hampshire opened the scoring early, only three minutes into the game, when DeSimone picked up his fifth goal of the season with a quick shot from the right circle.
The Big Green tied the game on a goal by sophomore Nick Walsh and took their only lead of the game when junior forward Matt Reber put an easy rebound past New Hampshire goalie Brian Foster at 14:28 of the first period.
New Hampshire tied the game at two in the first period’s final minute when Thompson received a long pass from Kessel and caught Dartmouth on a bad line change. Thompson broke in alone, took a quick shot on O’Neill and put his own rebound through O’Neills legs to knot the score, 2-2, at 19:20 of the first period.
“It was supposed to be an icing, but it took a funny bounce off the boards and I just turned it up ice and Paul was coming across the middle,” Kessel said of Thompson’s first goal. “[Thompson] made a nice play there, getting his own rebound and burying that one for us.”
The win was New Hampshire’s first non-conference victory in seven tries this season and improves their overall record to 10-7-4. The Wildcats also maintained their slim lead in Hockey East after second place Boston College did not play Saturday. Dartmouth falls to 4-12-0 on the season, their second straight loss and sixth in the past seven games.
New Hampshire and Dartmouth have played each other at the Verizon Wireless Arena, a neutral site in Manchester, every year since 2000; the Wildcats are now 6-3-1 in those contests.
“We started off well, let them back in there and scoring that goal was important to get back and tie it up,” Umile said. “We’re playing well, and hopefully it continues. We’ve finished up our non-league schedule and now it’s all Hockey East.”
New Hampshire hits the road for a pair of conference games next weekend, first against Providence on Friday and then against Boston University on Saturday. Dartmouth plays at Harvard on Monday, Jan. 18, before playing at Rensselaer and at Union next weekend.