MANCHESTER, N.H. ó The No. 1 ranked University of New Hampshire menís hockey team was defeated by the University of Maine in front of 10,104 fans at the sold-out Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Friday night in Hockey East action. With the loss, the Wildcats drop to 19-5-1, 14-3-1 in Hockey East. Maine recorded its first win of the season when trailing after two periods and improves to 17-7-2, 10-7-1 in conference play.
With 5:35 remaining, the Black Bears took their first lead of the night on a power-play goal from Matt Duffy, which was the eventual game-winner. The goal was the only power play tally of the evening and was scored just 15 seconds into the one-man advantage. Leveille earned his second assist on the night and Mike Hamilton also tallied an assist on the game-winning-goal.
UNH pulled ahead for the second time in the game on an unassisted goal from Greg Collins (Fairport, N.Y.) with 3:29 remaining in the second. The puck was turned over in the Maine offensive zone when Collins skated up ice and unloaded a wrist shot from 45 feet out, beating Maine goaltender Ben Bishop glove side. The score was evened by the Black Bears, 2-2, with a goal from Josh Soares, 1:32 into the final frame. Michel Leveille and Billy Ryan both notched assists on the play.
New Hampshire jumped on board first with a goal from junior forward Matt Fornataro (Calgary, Alberta) at 7:46 of the first period. Senior blueliner Chris Murray (Dover, Mass.) received the puck at the right point and delivered it toward the net. Sophomore forward Trevor Smith (North Vancouver, B.C.) tipped the puck toward the net where Fornataro, who was positioned on the left side of the goal, knocked it in. Maine recorded the equalizer with 6:15 remaining in the first period on a goal by Mike Hamilton. Keith Johnson and Rob Bellamy each registered assists on the play.
With 26 seconds remaining, the Wildcats took a chance by pulling goaltender Kevin Regan (South Boston, Mass.). Maine capitalized on the Wildcat gamble and pulled ahead 4-2 with an empty-net goal from Keith Johnson. After the puck was turned over at center ice Johnson scooped it up and fired a shot on net from outside the blue line.
Regan made 31 saves in the loss for the Wildcats, including 13 in the first period. Bishop recorded 27 saves for the Black Bears, including 12 in the opening period.
The top-ranked Wildcats return to action in the regular-season series finale against the Black Bears on Saturday, Feb. 3. Game time at the Whittemore Center in Durham is 7 p.m. The game will be televised live by New Hampshire Public Television (NHPTV).