DURHAM, N.H. - Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) recorded four points, including his second career hat trick, to lead the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Sunday's 5-4 victory against 14th-ranked Northeastern University at the Whittemore Center. UNH captures the best-of-three quarterfinal series, 2-1, to advance to the March 21 semifinals at TD Garden in Boston.
UNH, the tourney No. 4 seed with an 11-8-0 league record, improved to 21-17-1 overall and 4-1-0 against Northeastern this season. NU, the fifth seed with a 10-8-2 record in Hockey East, ends the season at 19-13-4.
Goumas set up the Wildcats' first goal and scored the team's next three goals to give the 'Cats a 4-3 lead early in the third period that they would not relinquish. Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) and Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.) both recorded a goal and an assist, and Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) also tallied multiple points with two assists.
Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) finished with 22 saves, including 11 in the first period. NU counterpart Clay Witt stopped 21 shots. Four Huskies recorded multiple points - Colt Saucerman (3a), Mike Szmatula (2g), Braden Pimm (2a) and Mike McMurtry (1g, 1a).
With the score tied 3-3 at the start of the third period, the Wildcats netted a 4-3 lead with a power-play goal at 4:40 when Goumas completed the hat trick with a shot from the top of the right circle into the upper-left corner of the net. Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) and Sorkin were credited with assists.
NU went on its second power play of the game at 6:13 and, moments later, Saucerman's blast from the high slot sailed wide right, but caromed off the end boards back over the net into the low slot and Kevin Roy wristed a shot that was snared by DeSmith.
The Huskies thought they tied the score, 4-4, with a power-play goal at 7:38 but the referees immediately waved off the tally on a high-stick redirection by McMurtry. After a lengthy review, the initial call stood intact, as did UNH's 4-3 lead.
UNH extended the advantage to 5-3 at 13:41 when Willows led a 2-on-1 rush down the left side of the slot. His initial shot was stopped by Witt, but Pesce crashed the net and deposited the rebound into the open net. Sorkin, with the outlet pass, also earned an assist.
Two minutes later, a series of tic-tac-toe passes from Willows to Sorkin to Goumas nearly led to a fourth goal for Goumas, whose blast from the right faceoff dot was inches wide of the far post.
NU counterattacked to pull within 5-4 at 16:10 of the third period. Szmatula carried the puck from the slot to the right doorstep and lifted a shot into the net. Roy and Saucermen were credited with assists.
Knodel's slap shot from the left point went into the net at 16:56, but the goal was disallowed because a UNH skater interfered with Witt's ability to play his position and the score remained 5-4.
Witt went to the bench in favor of an extra skater with 86 seconds remaining. Knodel backhanded the puck out of the low slot into the neutral zone with 47 seconds to play and NU was offsides on the attempted reentry.
The Huskies called time out at that point - 40 seconds on the clock. Northeastern entered the offensive zone but were unable to record a shot before Goumas lifted the puck from the left boards into the neutral zone. NU knocked down the puck with a high stick, forcing a faceoff in NU's defensive zone with 10 seconds remaining.
Witt entered the goal, but UNH called time out and Witt returned to the bench. NU's Dalen Hedges won the faceoff. The Huskies attempted to clear the puck along the boards, but Willows intercepted the puck just outside the blue line and fired a shot wide left of the open net to end the game and series.
New Hampshire skated to a 3-1 lead in the first period. The Wildcats struck first at 3:29 when Goumas corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and snapped a pass to Sorkin streaking down the middle and he snapped a shot into the cage.
NU went on a power play at 4:23 but the 'Cats netted a shorthanded goal to extend the advantage to 2-0 at 5:12. Pesce blocked a shot in the low slot to initiate the scoring sequence as Goumas collected the puck in the defensive zone, raced up the right dashers and blasted a shot from the top of the circle that sailed inside the near post.
Two minutes later, UNH's Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) led a rush down the right wing and sped past the Huskies defender toward the corner before executing a centering pass to Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.), and his shot from the slot went wide left of the cage. Kelleher corralled the rebound off the end boards and once again shot wide of the left post.
The Huskies pulled within 2-1 at 13:09 when Torin Snydeman's centering pass from behind the net on the left side deflected off DeSmith into the net. John Stevens and Colton Saucerman were credited with assists.
The 'Cats reestablished a two-goal lead of 3-1 at 17:13 when Pesce's slapshot from the right point was redirected into the cage by Goumas in the low slot. Willows also assisted on the goal.
NU netted the only two goals of the second stanza to level the score, 3-3. The Huskies closed within 3-2 at 4:28 when Pimm's shot from the left side of the slot was stopped by DeSmith but Szmatula buried the rebound under the crossbar. McMurtry also set up the tally.
The Huskies pulled even at 14:27 when Saucerman's centering pass to the low slot from the right circle was shoveled toward the net by Pimm and deflected into the goal by McMurtry.
The last time UNH advanced to the Hockey East semifinals was 2011, when the second-seeded 'Cats lost 4-1 to Merrimack College.
The Wildcats will take on the Providence College Friars on Friday, March 21. Game time is to be announced. For ticket information, be sure to visit www.UNHWildcats.com.