Following an abysmal weekend series vs. UConn, the UNH men’s hockey team made sure to play with energy early in the first period against UVM Friday. Scoring started for the Wildcats when sophomore wing Joseph Cipollone netted his first goal of the season, tipping the puck in after a scramble in front of the net. Despite the puck touching the mesh of the net, the referees did not realize and let play go on until the next whistle. The review quickly determined a UNH goal, and the appropriate amount of time was put back on the clock.
However, the Whittemore Center had a fair number of malfunctions including the videoboard and scoreboard shutting down. Since there was not a visible clock, the public address announcer was tasked with doing clock updates every whistle and on the power play.
For a majority of the second period, it seemed the most noteworthy aspect would be the fixing of the scoreboard until UVM tied it with one-minute remaining in the period. Junior forward Max Gildon was indecisive behind the net, and UVM’s junior winger Alex Esposito stole it and dished to senior center Matt Alvaro who set up a one timer for first-year wing William Lemay.
Things began to unravel for the Catamounts come the third period. UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon commented on the poor period. “I thought it was a really good college hockey game until the third period. Our team fell apart for a few minutes and gave up some key goals.” When asked about the penalty kill, his answer was quite simple. “It wasn’t good.”
UNH took advantage with a goal from sophomore wing Angus Crookshank, who scored on a two-on-one breakaway. That marked Crookshank’s team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Soon after, junior forward Patrick Grasso scored a power play goal off an assist from Gildon. With five minutes to go, UVM scored to make the score 5-3 UNH, but an empty net goal from sophomore center Filip Engaras sealed the 6-3 win for UNH.
UNH head coach Mike Souza praised UNH’s power play, but he also mentioned that “there’s always room for improvement.”
Saturday’s match had a quieter start, with only one shot on goal in the first eight minutes of the game. Intensity rose as the period went on highlighted by UNH’s penalty kill. The Wildcats successfully stifled a 5 on 3 opportunity for UVM, blocking every shot from the Catamounts and clearing the puck multiple times.
UVM senior goalie Stefanos Lekkas remained impenetrable in the second period, recording eight saves in the second period. Lekkas was pivotal in UVM’s success on the penalty kill, which eventually resulted in the first goal of the night. Senior defenseman Corey Moriarty recorded his first goal of the season on a shorthanded breakaway. Assisting on the play was Alvaro and senior center Derek Lodermeier.
The third period began with a bit of a scare, as UVM junior forward Vlad Dzhioshvili was ejected for the game after a head on collision with Engaras. This resulted in a five-minute major, giving the Wildcats an extended power play that eventually became a 4-on-4 after a penalty on junior forward Eric MacAdams. Yet, UNH capitalized with an equalizing goal from Gildon.
Later on, Engaras scored the game winner. Engaras praised his teammates on his goal. “It was a great play by both Blackburn and MacAdams. They both stayed heavy on the puck, took it to the net and found me. A great play by them.”
This was an important weekend for the Wildcats, as it was their first weekend sweep since doing so against UMass Lowell in 2018. The pair of wins moved them to a fifth-place tie in the Hockey East with Boston University, who they play this upcoming weekend in a home and home. The Terriers will be in Durham on Friday and Saturday’s game will be in Boston. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. puck drop.