Thirteenth ranked New Hampshire (5-5-3, 3-3-2 HE) finally ended their six game winless stint on the road when they returned home to the Whittemore Saturday night, defeating Providence (2-9-1, 0-8-1 HE) 4-3.
The Wildcats are unbeaten at home, yet the team has not won an away game. Dropping in the rankings, the Wildcats have been eager to scratch their way out of that hole.
UNH sophomores however, have technically not been in a slump, as they’ve accounted for 51 percent of the team’s offense so far this season. Tonight was no different, as three of the four goals and two assists were from the sophomore class.
“We [the sophomores] came into this year, a lot of us worked hard over the summer, and we wanted to take a prominent role on the team,” said sophomore James van Riemsdyk, who leads the team with 8 goals and 10 assists. “It’s just a matter of grabbing the bull by the horns and running with your opportunity.”
It was an even handed first period, but Providence got on the board first when the Friars crowded UNH goalie Brian Foster [32 saves] in his territory, allowing John Cavanagh to slip it in the Wildcats’ net at 8:34.
However, at 12:44 the Wildcats tied it up. UNH’s Steve Moses grabbed the puck in the neutral zone, took it down the right wing and cut to the middle. He then tapped the puck over to Mike Borisenok, who finally got one past Providence goalie Justin Gates [25 saves].
There were no penalties until 17:37 in the first, when Bryce Aneloski was put in the box for hooking, giving the Wildcats their first of three power play opportunities Saturday night.
The second period started four-on-four because of the last minute penalties in the first to Danny Dries and Joe Lavin, but once back at full strength, UNH took control, scoring three times in the period.
The Wildcats doubled their lead when van Riemsdyk attempted to rush Gates for a shot, Gates blocked it, and classmate Mike Sislo was there to put in the rebound at 2:06.
A few minutes later, Dries, yet another sophomore, dominated with the puck down the left wing, eventually wristing it from the circle sending the puck to the upper right corner past Gates at 3:47.
UNH then handed the Friars a two-man advantage, caught with too many men on the ice and Bobby Butler in the box for holding, but the home team killed the penalty. Providence was not as successful in their penalty kill when Chris Eppich got two for hooking at 9:37.
Wildcats’ co-captain Joe Charlebois had the puck in the Friars’ zone just past the blue line at center ice. The captain dished it to Dries, who was waiting in the right faceoff circle ready to send the puck literally past the open ‘Gates’ again for a power-play goal and his second point of the night.
In the third period, the Friars struck back, scoring at 1:27 with a bullet from the left wing from Matt Bergland that soared between Fosters right side and the post.
Providence answered again at 12:23 when they capitalized on a two-man advantage when Sislo and Greg Collins were in the box for tripping and hooking respectively. The Friars’ Mark Fayne made the score 4-3 with the five-on-three power-play goal.
However, the Friars’ effort in the third wasn’t enough to skate away with a victory, and the team remains winless in Hockey East.
“When you’re a team like ours and you’re struggling, you’ve won two games all year and you haven’t won in the league, you know if you’re winning games and you fall behind it doesn’t affect you at all, but when you’re losing games and you fall behind, it’s been our pattern,” said Providence coach Tim Army. “You know you’re gripping your sticks too tightly; you don’t respond like you would if you were feeling a little bit better about things. We just need some more good things to happen so we feel better about ourselves; that’s the next challenge.”
New Hampshire coach Dick Umile emphasized the importance of the win and how hopefully it marks the end of the Wildcats’ drought.
“We needed it,” said Umile. “Obviously being home has been good to us and it would have been real disappointing if we didn’t get it here today. Obviously the last six games have been on the road (0-4-2). We’ve played against some good teams and couldn’t win a game. So yeah, we’ll take the win. Hopefully, it will jump start us in the right direction.”