DURHAM, N.H. – The line of Colin Hemingway (Surrey, B.C.), Lanny Gare (Vernon, B.C.) and Josh Prudden (Andover, Mass.) combined to score three goals and nine points overall to propel the top-ranked and top-seeded University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team to Friday night’s 6-2 Hockey East quarterfinal victory vs. Merrimack College at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which extended its winning streak to six games, is now 26-6-3 overall. The ‘Cats finished with a 17-4-3 record in Hockey East to finish atop the conference standings. They can advance to the Hockey East semifinals (March 15 at the FleetCenter) with a victory against the Warriors on Saturday night (7 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center.
Merrimack (11-22-2, 6-16-2), which has lost four straight to UNH and is winless (0-20-4) vs. the ‘Cats since Nov. 18, 1995, needs a victory to force a decisive game three on March 10 (7 p.m.).
Prudden (goal, assist) scored his 14th goal of the season to give New Hampshire a 1-0 lead at 8:50 of the first period. Gare (goal, two assists) circled behind the net and made a centering pass to Prudden, who was denied by MC goaltender Joe Exter (42 saves) on his first attempt but not on the second. Hemingway, who led the attack with a goal and three assists, was also credited with an assist.
The Wildcats took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission and extended it to 2-0 on a Tyson Teplitsky (Saskatoon, Sask.) goal at 1:45 of the second period. Kevin Truelson (Avon, Mass.) initiated the scoring sequence from the right point with a pass to David Busch (Toronto, Ont.) at the top of the slot. Busch executed a quick touch pass to Teplitsky at the top of the left circle and he fired a wrist shot inside the near post.
Merrimack trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 9:18 of the middle stanza when Anthony Aquino skated behind the net and centered the puck in the low slot to Alex Sikatchev, who in turn scored on a low shot between the legs of UNH goalie Matt Carney (Bridgewater, Mass.; 23 saves).
UNH reestablished a two-goal lead, 3-1, when Hemingway extended his goal-scoring streak to eight games on his team-leading 31st goal of the year with 25 seconds remaining in the second period. Gare, standing near the left dashers, centered to Hemingway. His initial shot was blocked by Exter, but the rebound went back to Hemingway and this time he hit the open right side of the net.
Goals by Justin Aikins (South Surrey, B.C.) and Gare at 5:41 and 9:20, respectively, gave New Hampshire a 5-1 lead. Tim Horst (South St. Paul, Minn.) and Nathan Martz (Chilliwack, B.C.) set up Aikins’ tally. Teplitsky and Hemingway were credited with assists on Gare’s goal.
Matt Foy, with the assistance of Ryan Kiley and Marco Rosa, pulled Merrimack within 5-2 at 10:24 but the visitors would get no closer.
Hobey Baker Award candidate Darrren Haydar (Milton, Ont.) recorded his 28th goal and 67th point of the season to cap the scoring with 1:18 to play.