DURHAM, N.H. – Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.) and Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) both recorded two assists, but the 20th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team was defeated 5-2 by 19th-ranked University of Vermont in Friday night's Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which entered the game on a two-game win streak, is now 16-14-1 overall and 8-7-0 in Hockey East. UVM ended a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) vs. the Wildcats to improve to 14-9-3, 6-7-0. The teams conclude the two-game series at the Whittemore Center on Saturday, Feb. 8 (7 p.m.).
UNH starting goaltender Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) exited the game when the Wildcats fell behind 5-2 at 9:57 of the third period; he made 24 saves and was charged with the loss. Jeff Wyer (Reading, Mass.) shut out UVM the rest of the way on four shots.
UVM was led offensively by Brendan Bradley and Chris McCarthy, both of whom tallied a goal and two assists. Mario Puskarich also had multiple points with a goal and an assist. Mike Santaguida was credited with 26 saves, including 10 in both the second and third periods.
The Wildcats struck first but the Catamounts responded with goals 42 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Sorkin initiated UNH's goal-scoring sequence by winning the battle for the puck in the left corner. He found Willows at the left doorstep, and Willows executed a backdoor pass across the crease to Kevin Goumas (Lond Beach, N.Y.), who tapped the puck into the open right side of the net for his 13th goal of the season.
UVM tied the score, 1-1, at 10:11. Bradley was denied on his initial two shots at the top of the crease, but he pushed the third shot past DeSmith into the cage. Puskarich, who fed the puck to Bradley in the low slot, and McCarthy were credited with assists. Brady Shaw gave the Catamounts a 2-1 lead at 10:53 when he corralled a rebound at the right post, skated behind the net and scored on a wraparound. Yvan Pattyn, whose initial shot from the top-right was stopped by DeSmith, and Jake Fallon tallied assists.
Vermont went on the first power play of the game at 6:08 of the second stanza, and in the waning seconds of that skater advantage DeSmith denied Pete Massar at the right doorstep and Bradley off the rebound in front.
The visiting 'Cats extended the advantage to 3-1 with a power-play goal at 15:12. Bradley carried the puck into the offensive zone and snapped a pass to Connor Brickley cutting down the slot. Brickley evaded a defender and slipped a shot past DeSmith. Nick Bruneteau, with the pass through the neutral zone to Bradley, was also credited with an assist.
With 25 seconds remaining in the second period, UNH had an abbreviated two-skater advantage for 12 seconds but did not record a shot on goal. UVM's penalty kill also kept the Wildcats at bay the rest of the stanza to send the Catamounts into the locker room with a two-goal lead.
New Hampshire opened the final frame with 1:35 remaining on its power play and trimmed the deficit to 3-2 on Pesce's tally at 1:25. Willows' initial shot from the slot was stopped by Santaguida. The loose puck trickled wide of the left post, where Sorkin tipped it back to the doorstep. Willows quickly sent a pass to the high slot and Pesce ripped a low shot into the cage.
UVM potted goals 18 seconds apart – at 9:39 and 10:57 – to establish its largest lead of the game, 5-2, and chase DeSmith from the game. McCarthy, with the assistance of Bradley, made it a two-goal game and then his diagonal pass from the left point went to the stick of Puskarich, who blasted a shot into the upper-right corner.