NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) and sophomore Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) each scored a goal as the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team fell by a score of 4-2 on Friday night at Merrimack College.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 18-16-1 on the year and to 10-9-0 in Hockey East play while Merrimack improves to 8-20-3 and to 3-14-2 in league action.
UNH held the offensive advantage in the first period, outshooting Merrimack 10-8. Juniors Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) and Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) and senior Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) each recorded a pair of shots in the frame. Downing nearly got the 'Cats on the board with a point-blank attempt just to the right of Warrior netminder Rasmus Tirronen, however the shot was saved.
UNH goalie Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) was perfect in the opening stanza, making saves on all eight shots faced. MC's Mike Collins had a pair of shots from just outside the crease, but the Granite State native denied the opportunities. At the end of the first period, the game remained scoreless.
After 6:24 of play in the second period, Merrimack's Justin Mansfield broke the tie to put the Warriors up by a score of 1-0. The play started with Rhett Bly gaining possession of the puck in the neutral zone and skating into the Wildcat zone. He found Quinn Gould down on the redline to the left of DeSmith. Gould played the puck across the face of the net to Mansfield who found the back of the net with his one-time shot.
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead with 8:50 left in the second period with a power play goal by Brian Christie. Goumas was assessed a penalty for interference at the 9:49 mark of the frame. Mike Collins got the puck off a faceoff from Brendan Ellis in the UNH zone. Collins fired a shot on net that DeSmith saved, however Christie found the rebound and took aim at net. DeSmith got a piece of the puck, however it popped up over his shoulder and into the net.
Freshman blueliner Matias Cleland (Longmont, Colo.) nearly got UNH on the board just moments later as he fired a shot from just outside the left faceoff circle, however the puck rung the post and bounced away from the Merrimack net.
With two periods in the books, the Warriors led by a score of 2-0.
The Wildcats started the third period with a power play just 50 seconds in after Merrimack was called for a bench minor for too many skaters on the ice. Just 45 seconds into the power play, Pesce ripped a shot from just inside the blueline that Tirronen made a glove save on. After Mansfield was called for hitting from behind, the Wildcats went on a 5-on-3 advantage. At the 2:29 mark of the third period, Pesce got the 'Cats on the board with a one-time blast through traffic that found the back of the net. The play started when Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) played a pass over to Goumas along the boards. Goumas found Pesce waiting just inside the blueline who took aim at the net for the goal. The assist for Goumas was the 97th of his career.
Speelman brought the score to a 2-2 tie with 11:59 left in the third period with his sixth goal of the season. The play started with Downing sending a pass to Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.) who was skating up ice through the neutral zone. Silengo skated into the Warrior zone and left the puck for Speelman to the left of the Warrior net. Speelman ripped a shot that sailed into the back of the net for the goal.
With 11 minutes left in the period, Gould regained the lead for the Warriors with his second point of the night. Kyle Singleton sent a pass to Gould in front of the net. Gould's initial shot was saved by DeSmith, however he found the rebound and poked it into the net for the goal.
With just over three minutes left to play, Justin Agosta (East Meadow, N.Y.) nearly re-tied the game as he and Silengo made a give-and-go play heading into the Merrimack zone. Agosta's shot was thwarted by Tirronen in the ensuing play.
With 1:03 left in the game, the Wildcats pulled DeSmith for the extra skater advantage. New Hampshire produced offensive opportunities, however were unable to convert. With nine seconds left in the game, Connor Toomey gave the Warriors a 4-2 advantage with an empty net goal.
DeSmith received the loss in net for UNH as he made 24 saves on 27 shots faced in the game. His record falls to 16-14-0 on the year. Tirronen improved his record to 7-13-3 as he made 23 saves on 25 shots faced from the Wildcats.
UNH was 1-for-3 in power play situations while Merrimack converted one of two attempts.
The two teams will wrap up the regular season Saturday night with a rematch of Friday's contest at Merrimack. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.