ORONO, Maine – Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) handed out a pair of assists, but the 13th-ranked University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team fell to 16th-ranked Maine, 3-2, on Friday night in Hockey East action at Alfond Arena.

UNH falls to 13-9-4, 12-4-3 HE. Maine improves to 13-9-3, 10-6-2 HE. The teams will meet on Saturday night (7 p.m.) for the rubber match of the three game series. The Wildcats captured a 5-2 win over Maine on Oct. 24, 2009 at Whittemore Center in the teams’ first meeting this year.

With the scored tied at 2-2 entering the third period, it was Robby Dee’s goal just 44 seconds into the final frame that proved to be the game winner. The tally was assisted by David deKastozza. The goal was Maine’s third straight and completed the comeback that included erasing a 2-0 deficit. UNH would have several opportunities in the third including 32 seconds of 5-on-3 play late in the period and a pair of Grade-A scoring opportunities that were turned away by netminder Scott Darling. The Wildcats held an 11-10 shot advantage in the period.

Play was even early in the opening period when New Hampshire was whistled for a penalty. Skating a man down, Kessel blocked a shot from the left point and starting a three-on-two break that ending with Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) finishing with a one-timer from the right side that beat Maine’s Scott Darling for the short-handed tally at 5:00 of the first period. Maine held an 11-7 shot advantage in the frame.

The Wildcats extended the lead to 2-0 at 4:15 of the second period as Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) skated the puck into the offensive zone and beat Darling on his glove side. Kessel and Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) were credited with assists on the play. However, it was the Black Bears answering with a pair of goals in the second half of the period as Tanner House scored on the power play with assists from Gustav Nyquist and Will O’Neill at 11:55. Maine potted the equalizer in the final minute at 19:39 as Jeff Dimmen scored on the rebound of a Nyquist shot, Brian Flynn also assisted on the tally. Maine held a slim 13-12 shot advantage in the period.

UNH goalie Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) stopped 31 shots including 11 in each of the first two periods. Foster moves to 12-9-4, his counterpart Darling improves to 13-3-3 as he stopped 28 shots including 11 in the final two periods.

Overall Maine held a 34-30 shot advantage. The Black Bears were 1-5 on the power play, while UNH was 0-3 in its extra-skater opportunities.

The teams complete the two-game series on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m. at Alfond Arena. The game will be televised regionally on WABI-TV with radio broadcast on all of the stations of the Wildcat Sports Network.

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