DURHAM, N.H. – Junior defenseman Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) registered a pair of points on the night (1g, 1a) as the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team fell by a score of 4-3 to border rival University of Maine on Friday night at the Whittemore Center.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 18-9-6 overall and to 13-8-5 in Hockey East action while the Black Bears improve to 11-17-7 on the season and to 7-12-7 in conference action. Maine clinches its spot in the Hockey East tournament by virtue of the win and a UMass loss, while UNH remains in a logjam at the top of Hockey East. The Wildcats sit with 31 points, one point behind co-leaders UMass-Lowell and Providence for the top spot in Hockey East. New Hampshire is tied with Boston College, one point ahead of Boston University and two points ahead of Merrimack College.
Maine jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the 8:45 mark of the first stanza when Steven Swavely netted his sixth goal of the season during shorthanded play. Devin Shore snagged a UNH turnover entering the offensive zone and carried the puck and three defenders to the corner allowing space for a crashing Swavely for a low one-timer. The Black Bears held the 1-0 lead through the remainder of the first period.
In the second period, both teams eagerly tried to attain the next goal, but solid goaltending left the score at 1-0. The Black Bears registered 11 shots-on-goal in the stanza as the Wildcats aimed seven at Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.
At the 9:18 mark of the third period, Maine increased its lead when Kyle Beattie tallied his first goal of the game and sixth of the season. Will Merchant started the play for the Black Bears when he sent the puck to Jon Swavely at the top of the blueline. Swavely sent a pass off the wall and behind the net where Beattie connected with the pass to the right of Wildcat netminder Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.). Beattie sent a wrist shot that deflected off DeSmith and into the net.
New Hampshire opened up the third period with a power play in which they outshot the Black Bears by a margin of 10-1 in the span.
At 13:24 of the third, New Hampshire broke onto the scoreboard as Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) registered his eighth goal of the season. Trevor van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) played the puck parallel along the blueline to an awaiting Knodel. Knodel then blasted a slap shot into traffic that found the leg of Speelman, altering its course and finding the back of the net.
The Black Bears responded with a pair of quick goals, the first of which was tallied by Shore. Shore originated the play when he won a faceoff in New Hampshire's zone, sending the puck to Mike Cornell. From just inside the blueline, Cornell ripped a wrist shot that Shore deflecte in through traffic and past DeSmith at 13:47. Beattie added the fourth goal of the night to Maine's total on an unassisted play at 14:06 of the period. Beattie was unassisted on the play as he stole the puck in a failed clear attempt by the Wildcats and skated back in with it. Beattie carried the puck around the back of the net and shoved it in on a wraparound.
The Wildcats charged back after pulling DeSmith from the net for the extra skater. Knodel cut Maine's lead in half with 1:13 remaining in the third after threading the needle with a slap shot from just inside the point. van Riemsdyk slid the puck over to Knodel to tally the assist on the play. New Hampshire kept the sixth man on the ice after the faceoff, which ultimately paid off for the 'Cats. With the extra attacker, Austin Block (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) tallied his 14th goal of the season and brought the Black Bear lead to just one goal. Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, B.C.) found the rebound of Knodel's shot as it bounced to John Henrion (Holden, Mass.). Henrion shot the puck that was initially saved by Ouellette, but Block was waiting for the rebound and slammed it home. Despite the late offensive surge by New Hampshire, the Wildcats fell just short to Maine as the final buzzer rang, finalizing the score at 4-3.
DeSmith received the loss in net for New Hampshire after making 20 saves on 24 shots faced. His record falls to 17-7-6 on the season. Ouellette picked up his ninth win of the season after making 31 saves on 34 shots he faced. His record improves to 9-10-7 overall.
New Hampshire took advantage of the power play, going 1-for-4 with the advantage as Maine was held to 0-for-3 with the extra skater.
The two teams will wrap up the regular season Saturday on Senior Day at the Whittemore Center. Puck drop is slated for 4 p.m. The game will air live on NESN and on the stations of the Wildcat Sports Radio Network. Tickets are still available online at UNHWildcats.com or by calling the Whittemore Center Box Office at 603-862-4000 ext. 5.