DURHAM, N.H. - Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) scored with 11.1 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the 12th-ranked University of New Hamsphire men's hockey team to Saturday night's 4-3 victory against Merrimack College in Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.
UNH improved to 13-8-4 overall and extended their first-place lead in the Hockey East standings by improving to 12-3-3 in league play. Merrimack, which snapped the Wildcats' 11-game league unbeaten streak with Friday's 3-2 victory at Lawler Arena, is now 9-14-0, 6-10-0.
In the closing seconds of the extra session, Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) won possession of the puck in the left corner and threw a pass into the circle, where Thompson gained control and fired a shot that was blocked aside by MC goaltender Andrew Braithwaite. The rebound ricocheted off Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) in front of the net towards the right doorstep, where Thompson lifted a shot under the crossbar to give the Wildcats the win.
UNH goalie Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) finished with 26 saves, including one in overtime. Braithwaite stopped 43 shots, including 10 in OT as well as 16 in the first period.
The Wildcats generated a 17-10 shot advantage in the first period and skated to a 1-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes. Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.; goal, two assists) intercepted a pass in the slot and fired a shot wide left of the cage. The puck caromed off the end boards towards the right post, where Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario; two goals, assist) stopped the puck and shoveled a backhander into the net before Braithwaite could scurry across the crease at 1:33.
Both teams generated a dangerous odd-man rush midway through the opening stanza. Merrimack's Brandon Brodhag carried the puck on the right wing and maneuvered to the low slot, where he sent a shot towards the left post that was blocked aside by UNH defenseman Nick Krates (Palos Park, Ill.). Within a minute, the Wildcats' had a 2-on-1 rush in which Mike Borisenok (Watervliet, N.Y.) saucered a pass from the left circle to the slot, where Kevin McCarey (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) quickly wristed a shot that was snared out of the air by Braithwaite's glove.
With 6:30 remaining in the first period, Merrimack had a 3-on-2 rush when Stephane Da Costa carried the puck down the left wing. The passing lane was blocked and Da Costa snapped a wrist shot from the faceoff dot that was enveloped by Foster.
In the closing minute, LeBlanc rushed down the left side and circled behind the net. Instead of a wraparound attempt at the right post, LeBlanc hesitated and wristed a shot towards the upper-right corner of the net, but Braithwaite once again denied the 'Cats with a glove save.
Both teams netted a pair of second-period goals to move the score to 3-2. The Wildcats once again struck early in the stanza when Sislo scored at 1:43 to extend the advantage to 2-0. Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.; two assists) curled off the right dashers to the point and sent a pass across the slot to Sislo, who blasted a one-timer into the open net. LeBlanc was also credited with an assist.
MC closed within 2-1 three minutes later when Justin Bonitatibus scored off his own rebound at the right post. Carter Madsen and Elliott Sheen set up the tally.
UNH reestablished a two-goal lead, 3-1, at 13:20 when a puck deflected off a defenseman in the low slot towards the right post, where LeBlanc lifted a point-blank shot into the net for his second goal of the game. Sislo and Moses were once again credited with assists.
Merrimack pulled within 3-2 on a Chris Barton power-play goal at 16:09. Da Costa moved the puck from the left point to the high slot, where Karl Stollery sent a pass to Barton at the right point and he fired a shot into the upper-right corner of the cage.
The Warriors opened the third period with 90 seconds remaining on a 4-on-3 power-play and capitalized on that skater advantage to tie the score, 3-3. Pat Bowen initiated the sequence with a pass from the left circle to Da Costa in the high slot. He slid the puck down the slot to Barton, who shifted the puck to his forehand and lifted a shot into the net at 43 seconds.
UNH responded with a pair of scoring opportunities in the next three minutes. First, Thompson was alone in the right circle but quickly swept a low shot wide of the far post. Braithwaite then stoned Moses in the slot, first with his blocker and then with the glove off the rebound.
MC was whistled for a major penalty at 6:37 but limited the Wildcats to five shots, mostly from the perimeter, in that five minute span.
In the 16th minute, Bonitatibus was alone in the slot and fired a low shot that Foster caught with his glove to keep the game tied, 3-3.
UNH responded with a dangerous chance at the other end of the ice when DeSimone centered the puck from the left corner, but Butler's one-timer was turned aside by Braithwaite's left leg pad.
New Hampshire returns to action Feb. 5 (7 p.m.) at the University of Maine. The Wildcats' next home game is Feb. 12 vs. Providence College. Game time at the Whittemore Center is 7 p.m.