DURHAM, N.H. – The 17th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team recorded a 19-11 shot advantage in the third period but the comeback effort fell short against sixth-ranked Union College, which recorded a 3-1 non-conference victory Friday night at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which entered the game with a four-game win streak, is now 13-11-1 while Union improved to 14-4-3. The Wildcats and Dutchmen conclude the two-game series Jan. 18 (7 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center.
Union was led offensively by Mat Bodie, Matt Hatch, Eli Lichtenwald, Michael Pontarelli, all of whom had two points. Hatch and Pontarelli both recorded a goal and an assist while Bodie and Lichtenwald both tallied two assists. Goaltender Colin Stevens made 38 saves, including 12 in the first period and 18 in the third.
Union skated to a 2-0 lead in the first period. In the fourth minute, UNH's Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.) stole the puck at the Wildcats' defensive blue line and chipped the puck ahead to himself in the neutral zone to create a breakaway; with a Dutchmen skater racing behind, Kelleher lost his balance attempting to deke Stevens and pushed a shot wide right of the cage.
The visitors netted goals 2:45 apart to turn a scoreless game into a two-goal advantage. Hatch scored off his own rebound at the top of the crease to give Union a 1-0 lead at 4:21. Pontarelli and Bodie were credited with assists.
In the sixth minute, UNH's Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) fired a one-timer in the slot that caromed off the post.
Pontarelli made it 2-0 at 7:06 when he skated into the slot and wristed a shot inside the right post. Litchenwald, with the pass from the neutral zone, and Hatch set up the tally.
In the 13th minute, the Wildcats generated a flurry of four shots within a 10-second span. Kyle Smith (Lumberton, N.J.) was denied twice from close range, Casey Thrush (Easton, Md.) was turned aside in the slot, and it ended when an Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) slap shot from the left boards was snared by Stevens.
New Hampshire opened the second period with 78 seconds remaining on a power play. In the opening moments, the 'Cats advanced the puck deep on the right wing, where Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) snapped a backdoor pass to Sorkin and he lifted a shot wide of the left post.
Union went on its first power play of the game at 3:50 and scored with one second remaining on the skater advantage to extend the lead to 3-0. DeSmith made the initial save against Bodie and then, while prone on the ice, made an acrobatic stop by extending his left leg pad to deny Lichtenwald. Daniel Carr corralled the rebound on the right side, however, and shot high into the cage at 5:49.
With the teams skating 4-on-4 in the 14th minute, UNH's Knodel blasted a low, hard shot from the left circle dot that Stevens blocked aside. Moments later, Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) sent a one-timer from the slot wide of the right post. Four minutes later, Sorkin's redirection from the slot was stopped by Stevens.
The Wildcats closed within 3-1 just 47 seconds into the third period. Willows skated into the offensive zone and lost possession, but Sorkin collected the loose puck and lifted a close-range shot under the crossbar.
Less than two minutes later, Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.) was at the left doorstep and beat Stevens, but the puck ricocheted off the right elbow of the cage. In the fourth minute, the initial shot by Trevor van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) was blocked by a Dutchmen skater in the slot, but Kelleher quickly snapped a shot that Stevens snared. One minute later, Willows was positioned in the low slot and his redirection was also stopped by the Union netminder.
With the 'Cats continuing to pressure, the Dutchmen called time out with 7:10 remaining in regulation. New Hampshire went on a power play at 15:09, but the visitor's penalty kill unit limited UNH to just one shot – deep on the left side by Sorkin – and it was stopped by Stevens.
DeSmith was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 1:20 remaining but the 'Cats were unable to get a shot the rest of the way.
UNH finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play while Union was 1-for-2; both teams had an abbreviated power play of 10 seconds on overlapping penalties.