DURHAM, N.H. – Jerry Pollastrone (Revere, Mass.) and Matt Fornataro (Calgary, Alberta) both recorded their first career hat trick to lift the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire men’s ice hockey team to Saturday night’s 7-2 victory against the University of Massachusetts at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats completed a sweep of the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series on the heels of Friday’s 4-1 win.
UNH, the top seed of the 24th Annual Hockey East Championship Tournament with a 19-5-3 league record, improves to 25-8-3 overall and advances to the semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden for the seventh consecutive year. UMass ends its season at 14-6-6.
UNH goaltender Kevin Regan (South Boston, Mass.) recorded double-digit saves all three periods (14-10-13) to finish with 37. Danny Dries (Lake Orion, Mich.; goal, assist) and James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.; two assists) also recorded multiple points for the ‘Cats, who went 2-for-7 on the power play and also netted a shorthanded goal.
UMass starting goalie Paul Dainton exited the game at 7:56 of the second period following Fornataro’s second strike of the night that gave New Hampshire a 4-1 lead. He was credited with 17 saves and his replacement, Dan Meyers, surrendered three goals on 16 shots in 32:01 of action.
UNH carried a 2-1 lead into the second period and broke the game open with four tallies to build a five-goal advantage heading into the final frame. Dries gave the Wildcats a 3-1 lead at 4:16 when he deflected Jamie Fritsch’s (Odenton, Md.) long outlet pass into the left corner, gained possession, skated behind the net and fired a shot into the net from deep on the right side.
Fornataro gave UNH a 4-1 advantage when he gained possession along the right dashers in the neutral zone and charged into the offensive zone. He hesitated at the point, then moved passed the defender and slipped a shot between Dainton’s legs and the puck trickled over the goal line.
Pollastrone, who scored twice in Friday’s victory, netted his second goal of the game at 9:58 when he scored off his own rebound on the right doorstep. He completed his hat trick with his third goal of the night at 15:19. Meyers stopped the initial shot by Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) from the slot, but the puck slipped behind the goalie. vanRiemsdyk got a stick on the loose puck and Pollastrone swept it into the open net.
Special teams dominated play in the first period, which included six minor penalties as well as a major and subsequent game misconduct. UNH was first to the power play and took advantage of a UMass major infraction to score power-play goals 22 seconds apart to build a 2-0 lead.
Pollastrone gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead at 7:58 when a shot from the right-wing circle. The tally was assisted by vanRiemsdyk and Joe Charlebois (Potsdam, N.Y.).
The Wildcats struck again at 8:19 when Dries fed a centering pass from behind the net that Fornataro one-timed into the net. Brad Flashains (Glendale, Ariz.) was also credited with an assist.
On the same penalty kill, UMass; Michael Lecomte had a shorthanded breakaway down the slot but his 5-hole shot attempt was stopped by Regan.
The Minutemen gained a 5x3 power play when UNH was whistled for penalties at 12:37 and 12:54, and they trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 13:45 with that two-skater advantage. Regan stopped Cory Quirk’s initial shot from deep on the left wing, but he couldn’t control the rebound and Alex Berry scored from the slot.
In the third period, UMass pulled within 6-2 on its second power-play goal. From the right circle, William Ortiz moved the puck to the left point, where David Leaderer fired a high shot into the net.
Fornataro closed the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway goal at 17:07. He gathered the long outlet pass from Mike Radja (Yorkville, Ill.) at center ice and broke down the slot to complete his hat trick. Kevin Kapstad (Boxboro, Mass.) was also credited with an assist.
UNH will take on the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals of the 24th Annual Hockey East Championship Tournament. Potential game times for the Wildcats’ semifinal contest are 5 and 8 p.m. on Friday night at TD Banknorth Garden. UNH and Boston College have secured its spots in the semifinals, while the other two quarterfinals between #2 Boston University and #7 UMass-Lowell and #3 Vermont and #6 Northeastern are both tied up at a game apiece. This leaves BC, Northeastern and Mass-Lowell as potential semifinal opponents. Check into www.unhwildcats.com for all the latest tournament information.