The UNH men’s hockey team (2-2-1, 1-1) had a busy weekend, heading south to Massachusetts for back-to-back games against Merrimack (1-5, 0-1) and Boston University (2-1-2, 1-0-1).
Sophomore goalie Ty Taylor got his first start of the season against Merrimack, making 19 saves and giving up two goals in the overtime win. Yet, some of the issues they’ve had early in the season remained prevalent. Specifically, the issue was puck handling and it was especially prevalent in the first period. However, UNH’s defense remained stout, having no trouble clearing the puck out of the zone and stifling the Merrimack attack.
UNH head coach Mike Souza commented postgame on his team’s puck control. “We didn’t manage the puck well in the middle of the ice at Bentley. We were better at it tonight (against Merrimack), but we still have a long way to go. We still turned the puck over way too many times.”
Despite missing a few scoring opportunities early, junior forward Kohei Sato got the scoring started at 12:41 in the first period with his fourth goal of the season. Sato used his speed to create a self-made breakaway, where he slid across the zone in front of the net where he netted the puck into the lower stick-side of the net.
The Wildcats outshot Merrimack 6-3 in the first period courtesy of physical defense from senior defenseman Anthony Wyse and junior defenseman Max Gildon.
At 15:00 in the second period, Merrimack scored the equalizing goal, as first-year forward Joey Cassetti scored the first goal of his collegiate career.
Scoring was halted for the remainder of the second period, although Gildon had a great power play opportunity where he traveled from end-to-end with the puck, weaving through the Merrimack defense only to shoot into the goalie’s chest.
Merrimack started the third period with a one-man advantage, for UNH’s sophomore defenseman Ryan Verrier was called for holding with three seconds remaining in the third period. Luckily, the UNH penalty kill prevailed.
Soon after, Gildon extended the UNH lead to 2-0 with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.
At 15:52 in the third period, the Warriors tied the game again with a goal from first year defenseman Zach Uens. This set up overtime. This was already the third overtime game of the young season. The ‘Cats had a staggering 13 overtime games last season.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, the overtime period only lasted 27 seconds. Junior forward Charlie Kelleher was able to convert the game winning goal. Kelleher spoke about the scramble in front of the net which produced his third goal of the season. “It’s overtime and obviously we’re trying to get as many pucks on net as we can, and (Pierson) shoveled one on net, luckily it popped out and I was able to get a nice shovel in.”
Saturday’s game at Agganis Arena did not go as well for UNH. Sophomore goalie Mike Robinson got the start in the 3-0 loss, but it wasn’t his play that prevented the Wildcats from adding to the win column.
The game began with a heavy attack from BU, as the Terriers offense gathered four shots on goal in the first three minutes of the game. Robinson was playing well at the start, of the period, although BU’s senior forward Patrick Curry broke the ice with a deflection that found the back of the net. Curry was in the right place at the right time, for BU’s first-year defenseman Alex Vlasic ripped a slap shot from the blue line that ricocheted off of Curry’s stick into the net.
Souza commented postgame on BU’s ability to exploit UNH’s weaknesses. “They’re a good team and they’re going to capitalize if you turn the puck over… especially on the second goal when we turned the puck over in the slot then it found the back of the net.”
That second goal came when BU’s first-year forward Robert Mastrosimone ripped a spinning wrist shot from the slot past Robinson midway through the second period. Mastrosimone commented on his goal. “There was a little turnover in the middle of the zone, so I just turned and shot far side.”
The third period was the true story of the game. UNH outshot BU 14-4, yet could not find the back of the net. BU graduate student goalie Sam Tucker, who transferred from Yale this year, was phenomenal in net.
BU head coach Albie O’Connell commented on his team’s good fortune in the third. “We did a good job protecting our net, and we let Tucker see a lot of the shots since there were not a lot of screen opportunities for (UNH).”
Souza saw good things from his offense, but at the end of the “I thought we did a lot of productive things in the third, but the bottom line is you have to score a goal. As nice as that is, we’re here to win a hockey game.”
UNH ended up winning the shots battle 32-25. BU scored the final goal of the game when Souza decided to pull Robinson with two minutes remaining.
UNH has their home opener on Friday, Nov. 1 against Boston College (2-3, 0-1). They play on Saturday against Dartmouth (0-0). Both puck drops are set for 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.