DURHAM, N.H. - Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) and Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) scored third-period goals 12 seconds apart to lift the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team to Saturday night's 3-1 victory against Northeastern University in Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, still undefeated in Hockey East home games this season at 9-0-3, improved to 16-10-6 overall and 15-5-5 in Hockey East to increase its lead in the league standings to three points over idle Boston College. NU is now 16-14-2, 11-12-2. UNH needs just one point in the final weekend of the regular season to capture its eighth Hockey East regular season title.
New Hampshire goaltender Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.), after surrendering a goal 38 seconds into the game, made 21 of his 24 saves through the first two periods of play to keep the Wildcats within one goal. NU counterpart Chris Rawlings stopped 20 shots, including nine in the final frame.
Trailing 1-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcats quickly turned that one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead with tallies at 14:58 and 15:10. Speelman's initial shot from the slot caromed off the right post but he collected the rebound in the slot, moved to his left and fired a shot inside the left post to tie the score, 1-1. John Henrion (Holden, Mass.) and Mike Borisenok (Watervliet, N.Y.) were credited with assists. For Speelman it was his third career goal, the previous two also game at Whittemore Center against Northeastern.
Thompson gave the 'Cats a 2-1 lead when he curled behind the net to the right doorstep and swept a backhanded shot along the ice that eluded an NU defender and Rawlings. Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.) and Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, British Columbia) set up the tally.
Northeastern called time out with 1:42 remaining and pulled Rawlings in favor of an extra skater. UNH cleared the puck into the neutral zone and Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) fired a shot wide of the open net. Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) intercepted a pass to keep the puck in the offensive zone on the right half-board and centered to Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario), who sealed the victory with an empty-net goal at 19:13.
Northeastern netted the opening goal 38 seconds into the game when Justin Daniels intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and sent a pass ahead for Kyle Kraemer at the blue line. Kraemer skated down the slot and wristed a shot high inside the right post.
In the ninth minute, a UNH turnover deep in its defensive zone gave possession to NU's Drew Daniels in the low slot. He dragged the puck towards the left post and patiently tried to find a hole, but Foster remained in position across the crease and stuffed the attempt at the post.
With 5:30 remaining in the opening stanza and the Huskies on the power play, Robbie Vrolyk skated along the end line on the right side and maneuvered to the doorstep, where his shot was knocked down by Foster and the rebound was cleared out of the low slot into the neutral zone.
At the end of that skater advantage, Foster denied Chris Donovan at the right post and moments later he made a glove save on Mike Hewkin's screened shot from the high slot.
NU recorded a 9-5 edge in shots in the scoreless second period. In the opening minute, Vrolyk had a breakaway opportunity in which he fired a shot from the top of the left circle wide of the far post.
With 8:30 to play in the middle stanza, UNH defenseman Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) charged in from the right point to corral a loose puck in the low slot and he lifted a shot off the right post.
During the Huskies' third power-play opportunity of the game, which came in the closing minutes of the second period, Foster kept the 'Cats within one goal when he stopped Jake Newton's shot from the slot and Tyler McNeely's backhander off the rebound. Moments later, Foster also turned aside Kraemer's bid at the left post.
New Hampshire returns to action March 5 for its Senior Day game against Boston College. The game, which will be televised live by NESN, begins at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). The Wildcats conclude the regular season March 6 (7 p.m.) at BC.