DURHAM, N.H. - Jeff Van Nynatten recorded 49 saves and Vince Rocco registered two goals and an assist to propel the Niagara University ice hockey team to Friday night's 6-2 non-conference victory against 13th-ranked University of New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which had been on break for exams and the holidays since a 4-1 victory against UMass-Lowell on Dec. 10, is now 9-7-3 overall. Niagara, now 3-0-0 lifetime vs. the Wildcats, improved to 10-7-1.
Niagara quickly built a 2-0 lead in the first period on a pair of goals in the opening 3:51 of the game. UNH starting goaltender Jeff Pietrasiak (Shrewsbury, Mass.; 14 saves) stopped the initial Matt Caruana shot from the left circle, but Jason Williamson corralled the loose puck in the slot to score 45 seconds after the opening faceoff. Sean Bentivoglio was also credited with an assist. Justin Cross extended the advantage to 2-0 when he scored on a breakaway on a shot from deep in the left circle.
UNH pulled within 2-1 at 9:41 on Chris Murray's (Dover, Mass.) first career goal. A Jacob Micflikier (Winnipeg, Manitoba) shot from the high slot sailed wide left of the net but Daniel Winnik (Mississauga, Ontario) gathered the puck behind the net and passed it to Murray, who scored from the right circle.
Van Nynatten preserved that 2-1 lead by denying Josh Ciocco (Atco, N.J.) on a shorthanded breakaway with 5:20 remaining in the first period. He also fended off the 'Cats when they had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:27 late in the stanza.
The Purple Eagles stuck first in the second period to go ahead 3-1 at 2:52 when Randy Harris, with the assistance of Rocco, scored on a shot from between the circles.
New Hampshire once again trimmed the deficit to one goal, 3-2, at 6:47 when Michael Hutchins (Wolfeboro, N.H.) floated a backhander from the slot inside the right post. Trevor Smith (North Vancouver, British Columbia), with the centering pass from the left circle, and Jerry Pollastrone (Revere, Mass.) set up the tally.
Niagara took a two-goal lead for the third time in the game on Rocco's 4x4 tally at 16:07. UNH goalie Kevin Regan (South Boston, Mass.), who entered the game at 9:34 of the second period and finish with nine saves, stopped Mike Novosad's blast from in front of the NU bench, but Ted Cook collected the long rebound in the right circle and centered the puck to Rocco, who scored into an open net.
UNH pressed early in the third period, but Niagara capitalized on a pair of Wildcat miscues to extend the advantage to 6-2. Regan left the crease to play the puck and was forced to make a save in the right circle on Marc Norrington's blast from the point. The rebound went to Rocco, who fired a shot past Regan into the net at 12:40. Pat Oliveto closed the scoring at 14:24 when his shot from the right point eluded Regan and trickled across the goal line.
New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 6-7 for a two-game series against the University of Vermont. Both games at the Whittemore Center begin at 7 p.m.