Disappointment is the word going around the New Hampshire locker room these days, as the Wildcats (5-6-3, 3-4-2 HE) lost 4-3 Saturday night to Merrimack (4-7-3, 2-6-2 HE), marking the first home loss of the season and only the team’s third loss in 13 years against the Warriors.
“We’re in a difficult position right now, disappointing,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We’re finding ways to lose games; we don’t defend very well and we give the puck away. We do have opportunities, but we just give up when we get the opportunities.”
Merrimack’s fourth line got the scoring started when sophomore Bobby Kramer deflected Karl Stollery’s shot from the left point at 8:46 in the first.
There were only five penalties all game and the first didn’t come until 16:42 in the opening period when Merrimack’s Carter Madsen was put in the box for hitting from behind. UNH capitalized on the next Merrimack penalty less than 30 seconds later getting a five-on-three power-play goal at 18:02. Kevin Kapstad shot a bullet from the top right circle off a pass from co-captain Joe Charlebois, sending the puck past goalie Joe Cannata to tie it up 1-1.
The Warriors reclaimed the lead at 4:08 of the second period when rookie Elliott Sheen sent the puck through Brian Foster’s legs for his first collegiate goal.
Madsen had a quick breakaway two minutes later in the UNH zone, but he let Foster off easy, sending the puck to the far right of the net.
The Wildcats clawed their way back when James van Riemsdyk took the puck down the left wing on a two-on-one and dished it to Steve Moses in the center, who then put it in at 14:16. Van Riemsdyk’s assist continues his seven-game point streak; the sophomore has at least a point in all but two games this season.
A little over two minutes into the third period, there was a disallowed goal when Merrimack got a high-sticking call.
However, less than five minutes later, UNH’s Bobby Butler took the puck from the neutral zone, beat two Merrimack defenders and put it past Cannata at 6:46 for his sixth point of the season. For the first time Saturday night the Wildcats, had the lead 3-2.
Merrimack didn’t waste any time and answered back when Sheen fed the puck from the corner to co-captain Rob Ricci in front of the net. Ricci shot the puck at Foster, but was there for his own rebound and this time put it in at 7:37.
Umile holds the defense accountable for losing the lead so quickly.
“The third goal was the same thing,” Umile said. “We lose a one-on-one battle in front of the net, guy gets a shot. All our effort, or lack of effort defending.”
The Warriors weren’t done fighting, as they continued their offensive domination three minutes later when freshman Jesse Todd scored on the rush off a goal mouth feed from Pat Kimball in the left corner at 10:53.
“At the end of the day it’s about putting together a good effort and being shift-to-shift somewhat consistent, outworking the opponent,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “I thought for a stretch of this game we did, so they [his players] had reason to be positive. The prerequisite for our team is to play hard. If we play hard, good things are going to happen for this team. If we consistently match the other team’s effort level or outwork them then we are going to have success.”