The UNH men’s hockey team (12-12-9, 8-9-6) entered this weekend with one overarching task: get a win on senior night. The ‘Cats achieved their goal, sending seniors Frankie Cefalu, Richard Boyd, Chris Miller, assistant captain Ara Nazarian and captain Marcus Vela out of their final game at the Whittemore Center with a 1-0 win over #14 UMass Lowell (18-11-4, 12-7-4).
The first period on Friday was one of great physicality, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The refs allowed a fair share of hostile acts to occur throughout the game, calling minimal penalties. That said, a key reason for the Wildcat’s win was their penalty kill.
The ‘Cats halted all three of UML’s power plays over the course of the 1-0 victory. UNH head coach Mike Souza was happy about his team’s improvement on their penalty kill.
“Special teams have been a point of emphasis for us in particular because it’s let us down both ways. The power play and the penalty kill haven’t been where we want them the last few games, but I thought we tightened some things up and did a good job executing.”
The first period ended scoreless. Highlights included a save made by sophomore defenseman Benton Maass. There was a scramble around the net, which resulted in UNH sophomore goalie Mike Robinson leaving the crease temporarily. Luckily, Maass was positioned in front of the net and made a key save preserving the shutout.
Robinson put in an elite performance following a rough outing last weekend against Northeastern. Robinson tallied 29 saves in his fifth shutout of the season. Robinson shared his thoughts on the UML game compared to the Northeastern game.
“I thought tonight was definitely a better 60-minute effort than this past weekend. Defensively we were much better, offensively we didn’t create as much as we want but definitely more than the past weekend.”
Come the second period, UNH amounted a plethora of early shots on goal despite a lot of sloppy passing on both sides of the ice. Midway through the period, in his last regular season home game, senior Richard Boyd made the most exhilarating play of the night. With the referees distracted, Boyd engaged in a scuffle with a UML opponent ultimately resulting in Boyd delivering a hearty jab to the UML player’s chin. No call, no penalty, no stoppage in play.
Soon after Boyd’s momentum shifting actions, first-year forward Jackson Pierson set out on a breakaway and converted his eighth goal of the season with a wrist shot to the stick side of the net. This gave UNH a 1-0 lead, which they held onto for the remainder of the game.
In the third period, UML controlled possession. The Riverhawks outshot UNH 8-1 in the period, yet could not get the puck past Robinson. Late in the period, first-year defenseman Ryan Verrier lost his stick. He continued to work on the defensive end, delivering a bone crushing body check to a sorry UML forward. Again, no penalty was called.
Saturday’s regular season finale resulted in an overtime tie, as the ‘Cats and Riverhawks netted two goals each.
UML scored first with a one-timer from junior forward Kenny Hausinger. His eleventh goal of the season was assisted by senior forward Nick Master, who dished his ninth assist of the season after wrapping the puck around the net and into Hausinger’s stick. The goal was scored with 4:14 elapsed in the first period.
The equalizing goal came at 7:54 in the first period when UNH’s first-year defenseman Will MacKinnon scored his first goal of his collegiate career on a slap shot from the blue line that five-holed UML junior goalie Tyler Wall. On the assist was sophomore forward Eric MacAdams, his third of the season.
The Wildcats extended their lead on a power play goal from sophomore defenseman Max Gildon. Gildon netted a shot to the stick-side of the goal thirty seconds into UNH’s first power play. This was Gildon’s sixth goal of the season. Nazarian picked up his eleventh assist of the season on the goal.
UML tied the game with a power play goal late in the second period. Senior forward Connor Wilson scored his seventh goal of the season on a wrist shot that was assisted by first-year defenseman Chase Blackmun. This was Blackmun’s ninth assist of the season.
Scoring ceased for the rest of the game, as both Robinson and Wall were sturdy in net for their respective teams. Despite overtime action, neither team could net a goal resulting in a 2-2 tie.
Saturday’s tie marked UNH’s 13th overtime game of the season, breaking a school record set in the 2009-10 season.
Up next for the ‘Cats is an away matchup with #9 Northeastern, who has had UNH’s number all season. This will be a major test for the Wildcats leading up to the Hockey East playoffs. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday at Matthews Arena in Boston, MA.