NO. ANDOVER, Mass. - Senior Bobby Butler and junior Paul Thompson each had two goals and an assist to lead New Hampshire to Saturday afternoon's 5-4 win against Merrimack College in front of a sellout crowd of 2,990 at J. Thom Lawler Arena.
Merrimack (6-6-0, 3-4-0 HEA) hosts Northeastern Friday at 7 p.m. at Lawler Arena in its final home game until January 23, while New Hampshire (5-6-3, 5-2-2 HEA) hosts UMass Lowell next Friday at 7 p.m.
While Merrimack's scoring was spread out throughout the lineup with ten forwards each registering one point, UNH's second line of Paul Thompson, Phil DeSimone, and Bobby Butler did all the damage, netting five goals and four assists in the victory.
The Warriors came out flying, outshooting the Wildcats 16-7 in the first and took the early lead as J.C. Robitaille netted his third of the season 3:09 into the game. Pat Kimball fed Matt Moulakelis, who broke in on a 2-on-1 with Robitaille, and Moulakelis perfectly fed the senior right wing, who buried it glove side over Brian Foster for his third of the season.
UNH nearly tied the game shorthanded late in the period, as Stevie Moses and Phil DeSimone broke in two-on-none, but Joe Cannata made a sprawling left pad save on Moses.
After Butler tied the game on the power play at 7:08 of the second, Merrimack responded immediately, regaining the lead as Justin Bonitatibus one-timed a pass from John Heffernan for his third of the season and second in as many games.
Butler netted his second of the game short-handed at 16:22, but again the Warriors answered right back, with Joe Cucci pounding in a loose puck in front of Foster on the power play. Brandon Brodhag and Stephane Da Costa got the assists as Da Costa got the puck to the net and Brodhag, along with Cucci, battled in front of Foster to push it by the goaltender.
But Merrimack's momentum was squashed from there, as Thompson one-timed a feed from DeSimone past Cannata to even the score at three with 59-seconds remaining in the second. Thompson came right back to start the third with his second of the game, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game with 19:13 to play. DeSimone made it a two-goal lead as he took passes from Butler and Damon Kipp and scored what proved to be the game-winner at 6:19 of the final frame.
The Warriors didn't quit, cutting the deficit to one, as Jeff Velleca burst past two Wildcat defenders and backhanded a shot past Foster for his fourth of the year, unassisted at 9:23.
But three prime scoring chances in the final 2:10 of regulation from Robitaille, Da Costa and Karl Stollery were turned aside from Foster, and the Wildcats escaped with their fifth victory of the season.
Merrimack outshot UNH, 38-32, while both teams were 1-for-5 on the power play. Ten Merrimack forwards registered points in the loss, the first at home in seven games this season, its best start ever in Hockey East.