UNH Men’s Hockey: Wildcats Sweep Series with #13 UConn for 4th Straight Win


Evan Mullings, Sports Writer

DURHAM, N.H. – The ‘Cats got the best of the Dogs last weekend in Durham as the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (UNH) Men’s Hockey team swept the two-game weekend series against the #13 UConn Huskies (17-10-3, 11-8-2) from the Whittemore Center. That now makes it seven wins in the last nine games for the Wildcats (11-18-1, 6-13-1) including four straight wins against ranked Hockey East opponents (Merrimack, UMass Lowell, and UConn twice).

Over this recent stretch, one of the keys to the Wildcats’ success has been jumping out to early leads. They went up 2-0 on Sacred Heart January 8th, 1-0 against UMass on January 15th, and 2-0 on UMass Lowell and Merrimack two weekends ago. What did those four games all have in common? Wildcat wins.

In the last 16 games of 2022, the ‘Cats scored the first goal in just three games. In 2023 already, they scored first in seven of their first nine games and It’s hard to imagine that’s not playing a big role in their recent stretch.

Last Friday it took UNH just over two minutes to break the ice as Chase Stevenson forced a turnover at the UConn line and got tripped up on a breakaway leading to a penalty shot, the first of his collegiate career. Stevenson took his time moving in on Terness, UConn’s net minder and as he cut to the middle of the ice, he picked his spot glove side. It was an absolute beauty to bring the fans to their feet.

He said after the game, “To be honest I was so tired from the shift, I wasn’t thinking which was probably a good thing. I wish I could tell you I had a gameplan, but I was fortunate enough for it to go in.”

Stevenson managed to add another one late in the period as he cleaned up a rebound to the right of Terness and put it upstairs to make it 2-0. It marked his sixth point over his last five periods of play as his line alongside Stiven Sardarian and Kristaps Skrastins have ramped up their production since the February 4th matchup in Lowell where Stevenson and Sardarian were all over that come-from-behind win.

The Huskies were able to cut the deficit to one as Hudson Schandor tipped one home right in front of David Fessenden about halfway through the second period off of a beautiful feed by Justin Pearson.

From then on it felt as though the Huskies weren’t far away from getting the equalizer. They built a lot of pressure, especially late in the third period and you felt as though somebody was going to have to make a big-time play for the Wildcats and that guy was David Fessenden. With 1:48 to go in the third, a puck exploded to the side of the goal as Fessenden went down and slid across to rob a Husky of the tying goal. The building erupted with a standing ovation for the goaltender.

Ryan Black and Liam Devlin tallied empty-net goals to close out the night for the Wildcats as UNH knocked off UConn 4-1 in the first game of the weekend series.

On Saturday night, each team opted to go to their other goaltender as Tyler Muszelik was tapped to start the second of a back-to-back against Arsenii Sergeev for UConn. After a slower first period than Friday night, the Wildcats surrendered the first goal to Harrison Rees of the Huskies who picked up a puck from the high slot and ripped a shot far side past Muszelik. It was a much better start for the Huskies in comparison to Friday.

The Wildcats were able to punch back in the second period. After being outshot 10-4 in the first, UNH was able to counter by posting 14 shots to UConn’s 4 and they were rewarded for it. Stiven Sardarian continued his nice stretch as he was able to finish off a rebound in front of Sergeev to draw the game even. The game was tied up at 1-1 going into the third period.

Jake Dunlap and Justin Pearson would each go on to score a goal in the final frame as the two teams were deadlocked in the final minute of play. With less than ten seconds remaining, a loose puck found UNH’s Ryan Black to the left of Arsenii Sergeev who was completely turned around. Black’s shot to the empty cage was denied as Sergeev swung his stick around without looking, as the shot hit the paddle and stayed out. It was one of the saves of the season not only for UConn but in Hockey East play.

UConn was able to dominate the first few minutes of overtime but a turnover at the far blue line led to a 2-on-1 back the other way for the Wildcasts. Chase Stevenson slid it across to Jake Dunlap who put it back to the middle of the ice for the trailing Damien Carfagna who put it home, clinching the weekend sweep of the Huskies.

Carfagna talked about the Wildcats’ success of late after the game, “The guys are really confident in the room right now, we’re kind of on a roll. We just need to keep that going and confidence and energy will be key there.”

UNH plays host to the University of Maine (13-13-3, 7-9-2) on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 PM from the Whittemore Center for the first White Out the Whitt since February 2019.

Photo Courtesy of UNH Athletics