MEN'S HOCKEY TOPS MERRIMACK COLLEGE, 5-4

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.—The top line of Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H. – 2g, 1a), Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass. – 2g, 1a) and Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y. – 1g, 2a) scored three points apiece to lift the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team to Saturday afternoon’s 5-4 win over Hockey East foe Merrimack College at J. Thom Lawler Arena.

UNH improves to 5-6-3 and sits alone in first place in Hockey East with a  5-2-2 mark. MC is now 6-6-0, 3-4-0 in Hockey East. The Wildcats are unbeaten in the last four games (3-0-1) and hands Merrimack its first home loss of the season (6-1-0).

After a five-goal second period left the game deadlocked at 3-3, UNH took its first lead of the game just 47 seconds into the third as Thompson scored his second of the night, an even-strength tally from the left point, with an assist from DeSimone and Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.). The Wildcats extended the lead to 5-3 as DeSimone scored on a delayed-penalty extra-attacker opportunity at 6:19. The eventual game-winning goal was setup by Butler and Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, B.C.). Merrimack trimmed the lead to 5-4 with an unassisted goal by Jeff Velleca at 9:23 of the third. Despite 1:38 of empty-net time, the Warriors could not tally the equalizer. UNH held a slim 12-11 shot edge in the period.

Merrimack struck just over three minutes in as J.C. Robitaille scored from the right slot with assists from Matt Moulakelis and Pat Kimball at 3:09 of the first period. The Warriors held a 16-7 shot advantage, while each team was 0-1 on the power play.

In a five-goal second period, the Wildcats stroke first as UNH tied it at 7:08 of the second as Butler scored as he was falling to the ground by managed to score a off the rebound of a Kipp shot from the right point. Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario) was also credited with the helper on the power play goal. Merrimack answered just 31 seconds later as Justin Bonitatibus scored with assists from John Heffernan and Francois Ouimet at 7:39. The Wildcats tied it on a short-handed goal at 16:22. Butler second his second of the period, his league-leading 12th goal of the season, with assists from Thompson and Mike Beck (Long Beach, Calif.). MC regained the lead as they were able to convert on the power play with Joe Cucci scoring with assists from Brandon Brodhag and Stephane De Costa. The Wildcats once again had an answer scoring at 19:01 of the period as Thompson scored with assists from DeSimone and Kessel. New Hampshire held a 13-11 shot advantage in the middle frame.

The Wildcats were 1-5 on the power play and scored a short-handed goal, while Merrimack was 1-5 in its extra-skater opportunities.

UNH’s Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) stopped 34 shots including 15 in the first period and earns the win improving to 5-6-3. Merrimack’s Joe Cannata turned away 27 shots, but falls to 3-5-0.

UNH returns to action on Friday, Dec. 4 against UMass-Lowell. Puck drops at 7 p.m. at Whittemore Center. For tickets and more game information log on to www.UNHWildcats.com.

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