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UNH men’s hockey: Wildcats gain four points over Vermont before heading to No. 8 UMass



WILDCATS 3, CATAMOUNTS 3 (UVM 2-1 in shootout)

DURHAM, N.H. – Following a disappointing weekend against Northeastern, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (4-6-1, 2-4-1) stepped into a two game home series against the University of Vermont (UVM) Catamounts (1-6-1, 1-2-1). For UNH, this was a series to gain some much-needed points in the Hockey East, as coming into the weekend they had only been able to muster two points in the five games that they’ve been able to play.  

Thankfully for the Wildcats, they were able to do just that, retrieving four out of the six points that were available for the taking, sliding them up to ninth in the Hockey East with six points – three points behind eighth-place Boston University. 

Friday night the Wildcats stepped onto the ice led by transfer goaltender David Fessenden. The junior started both games this weekend and has now started in four out of the last five games for the Wildcats, as well as appearing in five out of the last six. Fessenden played phenomenally in net again for the Wildcats, stopping 25 out of the 26 shots sent his way.  

On the offensive side of the puck the Wildcats opened the scoring with a familiar foe in senior Filip Engarås who potted his third goal of the season to give the Wildcats the lead on the power play.  

The Wildcats’ next goal came on an interesting sequence in the second period when Vermont’s graduate student goaltender Tyler Harmon lost his stick trying to stop a UNH opportunity in front of the net. His stick flung toward a member of New Hampshire resulting in a penalty shot for the Wildcats. Senior forward Jackson Pierson took the shot and netted it for the 2-0 lead. The goal is the first penalty shot UNH has scored on since Jan. 22, 2016, when Ara Nazarian potted one against Notre Dame. 

The Wildcats were able to hold off a Catamounts comeback in the third, to take the game 2-1.  

Fessenden started the following night for the Wildcats as well. This was his fourth start in the last five games over graduate student and longtime starter Mike Robinson. The Wildcats and Catamounts played a back-and-forth contest that resulted in a 3-3 tie at the end of regulation. Pierson cashed in two goals for the Wildcats to take the team lead with four goals on the season while first-year forward Robert Cronin notched the other en route to his first career multi-point game. 

The game remained scoreless after overtime which counts as a tie between the two teams on their overall record. However, last year the Hockey East switched over to a new format in the standings where each team earns a point if tied at the end of overtime, and an extra point will be awarded to the team that wins shootout. The Catamounts ended up beating the ‘Cats 2-1 in the shootout, as junior Andrew Lucas had the winner for UVM.  

The Wildcats had multiple opportunities to put Catamounts away in the third as they outshoot them 15-3. Coach Souza even went on to call it what he thought was “the best period of hockey he’s seen from his team all year.” The Wildcats also outshot UVM 6-1 in overtime, but again were unable to find the back of the net for the winner.  

Fessenden explained postgame that it was overall a good weekend despite not getting all six points. 

“Obviously it was good to get four out of the six points, definitely was happy with some of the play and how our team played overall,” explained Fessenden. “We definitely wanted those last points, and it was kind of a heartbreaker in the end, but it’s a good learning experience to see what it takes to get two wins in Hockey East.” 

Souza made an emphasis to mix up the lines this weekend, splitting up the normal top six forwards and integrating the former third line of junior Chase Stevenson, first-year Will Margel and junior Harrison Blaisdell within the other forwards for a more balanced three-line attack.  

“There’s no secret, we’re trying to get Jackson [Pierson] going,” said Souza. “He’s one of the best players in the country and I think he showed that this past weekend. I thought he was the best player on the ice for both teams. We’re also just trying to find guys that complement each other well.”  

Despite the lineup changes, seniors Will MacKinnon and Ryan Verrier remain out of the lineup. However, first-year defenseman Colton Huard has played well on defense and is someone who has stepped up for the Wildcats in their absence. On Wednesday Souza gave an update on the duo’s status. He noted that MacKinnon is ahead of schedule and that Verrier probably won’t be back until after Christmas. 

The tough road of Hockey East opponents does not stop for the Wildcats this coming weekend, as they take on the defending National Champions and No. 8 UMass Minutemen.  

“[UMass] is a huge challenge whether it’s UNH or whoever happens to play them,” said Souza. “But for me it’s exciting and you bring yourself back to when there was a similar type of swagger here, and the swagger that we’re trying to regain, and you know that you’re going to get everyone’s best every night.”  

The Wildcats will travel down to the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. to take on UMass on Friday and will return to the Whittemore Center Saturday. 

Photo courtesy of Jess Speechley

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