Buffalo, NY - Junior forward Steve Saviano scored twice in the second period to propel New Hampshire into Saturday night's National Championship game with a 3-2 win against Cornell in a Frozen Four semifinal match-up in front of 18,637 fans at the sold-out HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY on Thursday afternoon.
It will mark the seventh consecutive season that a Hockey East team has played in the National Championship game.
Saviano's goals came within the first 7:10 of the second frame.
UNH capitalized on a transition play to take a 2-0 lead just 1:23 into the second period. Saviano sent sophomore Sean Collins into the zone on the right wing side with an indirect pass off the wall. Collins dropped a pass back to junior Nathan Martz, who set up Saviano in the left circle for Saviano's eighth goal of the season.
Saviano would give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal at 7:10 of the middle period. From a very tough angle at the bottom of the right circle, Saviano was able to wrist a shot over the left shoulder of Cornell netminder David LeNeveu.
Cornell carried the play through much of the first period and appeared to take the lead at 12:06 of the period when Shane Palahicky redirected a Jeremy Downs shot into the net. After a lengthy video review on a very close play, it was ruled that Palahicky redirected the puck with a high stick.
Instead, it was New Hampshire breaking through for a 1-0 lead at 14:21. Sophomore Robbie Barker created a turnover behind the Cornell net and junior Tyler Scott picked up the loose puck. Scott quickly set up junior Tim Horst in the slot, and Horst snapped a shot into the top right corner for a 1-0 UNH lead. It was Horst's seventh goal of the season.
The Wildcats outshot the Big Red 11-7 in the first period after generating the final 10 shots on goal in the period.
Cornell would capitalize on a power play of its own at 9:38 when Ryan Vesce redirected a Stephen Baby shot through the legs of UNH junior goaltender Mike Ayers to make it 3-1. It was Vesce's 19th goal of the season.
The momentum swung in the favor of Cornell after the goal with Cornell outshooting UNH in the period 11-3. Cornell nearly capitalized on a power play late in the period when Sam Paolini's shot got past Ayers only to carom of the post and through the crease out the far side.
Cornell's Chris Abbott would close the gap to 3-2 with his fifth goal of the season at 9:52 of the third period. A flip clear to center ice resulted in a Big Red 2-on-1 rush into the zone with Abbott finishing off a pass from brother Cam Abbott.
Ayers was solid throughout making 19 saves, including a game-saving stop on Baby with LeNeveu pulled for the extra attacker in the final minute. LeNeveu made 18 saves in the loss.
It was the 21st meeting ever between the two schools with New Hampshire now holding an 11-10 edge in the all-time series. Last year, New Hampshire defeated Cornell, 4-3, at the NCAA East Regional in Worcester, MA to advance to the Frozen Four in the only other NCAA Tournament meeting between the schools.
New Hampshire improves to 28-7-6 with the win, while Cornell closes its season with a record of 30-5-1.
The Wildcats will next face the winner of tonight's second Frozen Four semifinal game between Minnesota and Michigan on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast live nationally on ESPN.