DURHAM, N.H. -- Jim Abbott (Mars, Pa.) recorded his first career hat trick to lift the third-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Friday night's 8-4 victory against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell at the Whittemore Center. With the win, UNH takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.
New Hampshire (22-7-6), seeded No. 1 in the league tourney, and eighth-seeded UMass-Lowell (11-19-5) continue the best-of-three quarterfinal series Saturday, March 8. Game time at the Whittemore Center is 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 will be March 9, also at 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.
UNH built a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of delayed-penalty goals. With UNH goaltender Mike Ayers (Hingham, Mass.) on his way to the Wildcat bench in favor of an extra skater, Lanny Gare (Vernon, B.C.) shifted alone along the top of the crease and lifted a backhanded shot into the net at 10:29 for his team-leading 22nd goal of the season. Colin Hemingway (South Surrey, B.C.), with a centering pass from the left corner, and was credited with an assist. Tim Horst (South St. Paul, Minn.), with the assistance of Mike Lubesnick (Northbrook, Ill.; two assists), increased UNH's lead to 2-0 at 18:12 when he scored from in front.
Both teams netted three goals in the second period. Goals by Hemingway 17 seconds into the stanza and Abbott at 5:48 gave UNH a 4-0 lead. The River Hawks trimmed the deficit to three goals 1:32 later on a goal by Ed McGrane. Abbott's second tally of the night reestablished a four-goal advantage, 5-1, at 13:52. UML's Geoff Schomogyi pulled the visitors within 5-2 at 17:03, then Mark Concannon scored with 36 seconds remaining in the second period to make the score 5-3 at the end of two.
The Wildcats quickly extended its lead to 7-3 in the third period when Abbott completed his hat trick at 1:28 and that was followed a strike by Sean Collins (Reading, Mass.) at 3:58. UML's Steve Slonina lifted the visitors within 7-4 at 15:58 and Steve Saviano (Reading, Mass.; goal, two assists) capped the scoring with six seconds remaining in the game.
Ayers finished with 25 saves. Starting UML goaltender Dominic Smart recorded 16 saves and Chris Davidson, who played the final 16:02 of the game, was credited with three saves.
UNH's Brian Yandle (Milton, Mass.) was credited with two assists.