With just one win in the month of November, the No. 19 New Hampshire Wildcats came into Tsongas Arena on Friday night desperate for a win. Backboned by a terrific performance by junior goaltender Brian Foster, the Wildcats were able to hold on to a 2-0 win over the No. 17 Mass.-Lowell River Hawks in front of 5,312.
Foster, who recorded his second shutout of the season, was at his best in the third period when he made 15 saves as he fought off a furious River Hawks attack that threw everything at him.
â€œThere were a couple of tough plays there, but I thought our ‘D’ played well,â€ said Foster. â€œ[The defense] got everything out of the crease for me when they needed to get it out, and let me see a lot of shots. There were a lot of tough scrums, but we kept our composure and played well.â€
The win for New Hampshire was their first road win of the season.
â€œOn the road last year, we were a great road team; obviously this year weâ€™ve struggled,â€ said UNH coach Dick Umile. â€œThat was an important win coming down here [because] we havenâ€™t played great down here. But you gotta give some credit to (Nevin) Hamilton tonight. He played a pretty good game.â€
Almost as impressive as Fosterâ€™s performance was that of River Hawksâ€™ goaltender Nevin Hamilton. Hamilton, who saved 33 of the 34 shots he saw, was tested the hardest in the first period, when he saved 15 of 16.
â€œNevin Hamilton allowed us to stay in the game,â€ said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. â€œHe played really, really well. UNH couldâ€™ve been up three goals at the end of the first period but I thought Nevin Hamilton was the difference.â€
Down 1-0 with 1:29 to play in the third, MacDonald called a timeout and pulled Hamilton to get the extra attacker on the ice for the ensuing face-off in New Hampshireâ€™s zone. The River Hawks lost that face-off, though, and it was Mike Sislo who put home the empty netter that sealed the deal for the Wildcats with 1:19 to play.
The Wildcats took the 1-0 lead halfway through the first period, when Peter LeBlanc swatted home a rebound through traffic. Hamilton allowed a lot of rebounds in the first period, and thatâ€™s how LeBlanc netted his goal at 11:25, in the midst of sustained offensive zone pressure applied by the Wildcats.
â€œJust a couple swats at it, and I just tried to put some air on it because I knew he [Hamilton] was on the ground,â€ LeBlanc said, describing his goal.
â€œIt was a great determination on that lineâ€™s part to score that goal,â€ said Umile. â€œIt wasnâ€™t like [the puck] was just lying there. It was a great effort.â€
The pace of play slowed a bit in the second period, as the teams combined to commit four penalties. Kory Falite took the River Hawksâ€™ first penalty of the second period at 4:52 for hooking, as he tried to clear up traffic in front of Hamilton. The penalty proved to be a smart penalty, as the Wildcats could not net a goal with the man advantage.
Wildcat Phil DeSimone returned the favor for the River Hawks when he got called for tripping at 7:02. Straight out of the penalty box after his own penalty expired, Falite was going in on a breakaway all alone against Foster before DeSimone tripped him from behind and sent him tumbling into the net. DeSimoneâ€™s penalty also proved to be a smart one, as the River Hawks could not score with their lone power play of the second period.
Both teams went 0-for-5 on the power play on the evening.
Tempers flared at gameâ€™s end as James van Riemsdyk was checked hard into the boards as time expired. As a result, Paul Worthington and Blake Kessel took hitting after the whistle penalties as time expired, and Nick Schaus took a roughing penalty.
The Wildcats (6-6-3, 4-4-2 HE) and River Hawks (8-6-0, 5-4-0 HE) will meet again tomorrow night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH as they complete their home-and-home series.