University of New Hampshire (UNH) men’s hockey (5-12-2) and No. 18 Northeastern University (8-5-2) battled twice this past weekend. The Wildcats were unable to walk away from this series with a win and dropped two straight as they failed to capitalize on their special teams play which saved them the weekend prior.
The Whittemore center was supposed to welcome 500 students in to watch live sports for the first time in nearly a year. A day before the game, however, UNH moved into “Orange Mode” of operations not allowing students into the building and moving classes online.
In the first of the two contests the Wildcats got on to the board first just 11 minutes into the game when junior forward Angus Crookshank and senior forward Patrick Grasso broke in on a 2-on-1 and Grasso was able to sneak the puck around the Northeastern goaltender to make it 1-0 in favor of the ‘Cats.
Northeastern battled back and tied the game on the powerplay coming from sophomore forward Aiden McDonough who went on to score two more later in the game. The tie didn’t last long either as Northeastern sophomore Riley Hughes stuffed a rebound opportunity just 29 seconds later, making it 2-1 Northeastern headed into the second period.
UNH came out of the first intermission with energy but were unable to capitalize on powerplay opportunities. It wasn’t until it was 4-on-4 when senior defenseman Benton Maass was able to wrist one into the back of the net, tying the game at two.
Northeastern regained the lead a few minutes later coming off of the stick of sophomore forward Michael Kesselring. The Huskies added on to their lead with McDonough’s second goal of the game. UNH ended up outshooting Northeastern 12-2 in the period but was trailing 4-2.
McDonough scored his third of the night when Northeastern took a 5-2 lead. They didn’t stop there as they tallied another from Kesselring scoring his second of the night off of a rebound.
UNH stayed even with Northeastern in shots 23-23 but fell 6-2. Senior goalie Mike Robinson played two periods and made just six saves and allowing four goals. Meanwhile, junior Ty Taylor posted 11 saves and allowed two goals.
Late in the third period senior forward Eric MacAdams laid a blindside hit on Northeastern junior Marco Bozzo. The hit led to a five-minute major penalty, the ejection of MacAdams, as well as a one-game suspension for the senior.
UNH and Northeastern met again the following night and again the Wildcats fell to the Huskies, this time in a more competitive game.
The Huskies jumped out to an early lead just four minutes in from junior defenseman Julian Kislin who rocketed a shot from the point. Northeastern smelt blood in the water because they scored another quick one from first-year forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine who scored on the powerplay just a minute after the first goal. McDonough kept his hot streak going and found the back of the net once more on the powerplay giving Northeastern an early 3-0 lead.
Northeastern transitioned their hot first period into a quick start in the second period as Kesselring found the back of the net once more just 18 seconds in.
UNH showed life in this frame as Grasso one-timed a shot that found the back of the net just two minutes into the second period making it 4-1. The Wildcats answered again this time coming from junior defenseman Kalle Eriksson who buried a wrist shot and pulled the Wildcats within two. The Wildcats went 2-of-3 on the powerplay in the second period.
UNH could smell a comeback as just a minute into the third period junior forward Jackson Pierson one-timed a puck on the powerplay that ended up in the back of the net cutting the lead to one. UNH kept pushing and eventually tied it up coming off the stick of sophomore Lucas Hermann who jammed a puck in the back of the net. The momentum seemed to be in the Wildcats favor and could have a chance to sneak out with a win, or at least a point. McDonough buried the game-winning goal, however, with just four minutes remaining.
It was a tough series for the Wildcats, but they never quit and that is something coach Souza is proud of.
“It says a lot, we’ve never questioned our effort or our commitment to winning,” said Souza. “I thought they played their hearts out. Credit to Northeastern they have a talented team, and you give them anything and they’re going to beat you.”
He added “we’re playing for the end of the year. I think you saw what our team is about, and they fought hard until the final horn.”
UNH will now prepare for a home-and-home with Merrimack (3-10-1). The series will kick-off on Friday afternoon in the Whittemore Center before moving to North Andover for the second leg of the weekend.
Photo courtesy of China Wong