In this past weekend’s White Out the Whitt UNH (10-9-8, 6-6-5) split the double header with Maine (10-13-3, 6-7-3), winning 3-2 in overtime on Friday night and losing 5-3 on Saturday.
UNH faced off with the Maine Black Bears in the first game of the White Out the Whitt weekend double header at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. This edition of White Out the Whit marks the 20th anniversary of the event that poises UNH against Hockey East rival Maine.
Sophomore Mike Robinson got the start in net for the ‘Cats coming off of a career night against UCONN where he had 36 saves.
In net for Maine was sophomore goalie Jeremy Swayman. Swayman, who is under contract with the Boston Bruins, recorded an astonishing 53 saves against UMass in their last game.
The Wildcats struck first with an electric goal from senior left-wing Ara Nazarian.
Nazarian gathered the puck off an assist from first-year center Jackson Pierson who was leading the breakaway attack. This was Nazarian’s 10th goal of the season. The goal occurred with 7:20 elapsed in the first period.
Maine was penalized for goalie interference with 13:16 remaining in the first, setting up a six on five advantage that the ‘Cats could not capitalize on. UNH failed to score on the ensuing power play, too.
Sophomore right-wing Charlie Kelleher converted the second goal of the game for the ‘Cats, assisted by Nazarian. This was Kelleher’s third goal on the season. The goal was scored at 4:46 in the second period. Nazarian led a breakaway with Kelleher by his side, and once the Maine defenseman channeled over to Nazarian for a double team Nazarian slipped the puck to Kelleher for an easy goal.
A penalty on Maine’s sophomore forward Eduards Tralmarks led to a UNH power play. A couple seconds into the power play things got physical in front of Maine’s net, and Maine defenseman Rob Michel inadvertently struck a UNH player after the whistle giving UNH a five on three power play.
The Wildcats failed to convert despite the two-man advantage.
With 6:00 elapsed in the third, Maine splintered through the UNH defense into a wide-open breakaway, only to be halted by UNH’s Robinson for his 25th save of the night.
Maine broke Robinson’s shut out with a wrist shot in front of the net from sophomore forward Emil Westerlund, his sixth of the season. The goal was scored with 11:46 elapsed in the third period.
Soon afterwards, UNH’s junior defenseman Anthony wise was charged with a two-minute minor for holding. Despite a handful of scoring opportunities, UNH’s penalty kill stayed strong and prevented any scoring from Maine.
Maine tied the game on a ricochet goal in front of the net from junior center Chase Pearson. He was assisted by senior defenseman Sam Becker’s slap shot from the blue line. The goal was scored at 17:49.
This set up overtime.
Ara Nazarian quickly ended the game with a goal off of a faceoff that he stuck behind the back of the goalie, capping off an excellent performance from the UNH senior. Coach Mike Souza praised his senior left wing and his game winning goal. “Ara has a really strong stick, he’s great on his edges, so he wins a lot of puck battles… he picks the puck out of traffic off the faceoff and fortunately for us it found the back of the net.”
The final score was 3-2 UNH.
Saturday’s game saw a sold out Whittemore Center cheer on the ‘Cats again in their second night of a back-to-back.
Maine started off the scoring with two goals in the first period, one by junior center Tim Doherty and the other by junior left-wing Mitchell Fossier, assisted by Tralmaks. The latter of which was scored on a power play.
UNH was faced with an early 0-2 deficit with 12:00 played in the first period.
Sophomore defenseman Benton Maas sent a blue line slap shot which was deflected by senior center Frankie Cefalu past Maine’s goalie to bring the Wildcats within one. This was Cefalu’s first goal of the season.
Ara Nazarian followed that with a goal of his own, sending a wrister through the five-hole of Maine’s goalie. This was his 12th goal of the season and his third in two games. Nazarian has stepped up his play as of late, finding ways to convert when needed most.
Nazarian’s strong play continued to prove crucial for the ‘Cats, as he tallied a few poke checks in tough situations. “All season there has been no quit in this team… we showed great character coming back, but obviously we are not happy with [the result],” said Nazarian in regards to the early deficit they faced.
At the end of one, UNH outshot Maine 13-11.
The second period was highlighted early on by a scuffle occurring in front of the UNH net following a save by Robinson. Later in the period Robinson made a pass that went the length of the ice, setting up a missed shot from Kelleher. Toward the end of the period sophomore defenseman Brady Keeper scored his fourth goal of the season for Maine off a slap shot from the blue line to the glove side of the net. This put Maine ahead 3-2 entering the third period.
Maine started the scoring in the third period with a back handed goal from Pearson. This was his 14th goal of the season, extending Maine’s lead to 4-2.
The second and third periods were both littered with sloppy puck handling from the Wildcats. Every time an opportunity surfaced it would be washed away with a poke check or a miscommunication.
Despite winning the shots battle 44-26, UNH struggled to put the puck in the net resulting in a split weekend.
Maine’s goalie, Jeremy Swayman had another strong performance. Maine’s coach Red Gendron commented on Swayman’s play. “He made key saves when we needed them. He was terrific, but it takes a whole team. I always say, if you play perfect hockey you would not even need a goalie since you would not allow a shot on goal.”
UNH finally broke the seal again in the third period with a slapshot from Gildon. His fifth goal of the season brought the ‘Cats within one goal with a minute to play in regulation.
Unfortunately, all momentum was spoiled as Maine converted on an empty net goal at 19:12 in the third period. It was Fossier’s second goal of the night giving Maine a 5-3 lead.
Next up for the Wildcats is a road matchup with Vermont (11-13-2, 4-10-2). The ‘Cats will travel up to Burlington for a 7 p.m. Friday matchup and stay in Vermont for a Saturday night showdown at 7 p.m.