|1st||16:32||UNH||1-0||PP GW||Grayson Downing (15)||Brett Pesce/8|
|1st||18:39||UNH||2-0||EV||Andrew Poturalski (13)||Tyler Kelleher/22, Brett Pesce/9|
|2nd||15:15||UNH||3-0||EV||Andrew Poturalski (14)||Tyler Kelleher/23, Brett Pesce/10|
|Shots on Goal||1st||2nd||3rd||SOG|
|Team Stats and Records||PP||PIM||SHGF|
|New Hampshire (15-17-2)||1/6||11/22||0|
|Rasmus Tirronen (L, 10-12-3)||60:00||3||9||8||8||25|
|New Hampshire Goaltending||MIN||GA||1||2||3||Saves|
|Daniel Tirone (W, 10-4-0)||59:42||0||3||3||5||11|
DURHAM, N.H. - Andrew Poturalski (Williamsville, N.Y.) scored a pair of goals and Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) tallied three assists to spark the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team's 3-0 victory over Merrimack College in Saturday night's Battle For the RiverStone Cup XIV at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which won its season-best fifth straight game to close the regular season, improved to 15-17-2, 10-11-1 in the Hockey East Association. In the process, the Wildcats clinched the No. 8 seed and home-ice advantage for the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs next weekend against either the University of Maine or the University of Connecticut.
Merrimack (14-16-4, 5-14-3), which suffered a weekend sweep at the hands of the 'Cats, and extended its winless streak to nine games. Freshman netminder Danny Tirone (Trumbull, Conn.) earned his first career shutout as he made saves on all 11 shots faced. His record improved to 10-4-0 as he too earned his fifth consecutive win.
UNH scored on its first power play of the night at 16:32 of the first period when Pesce rifled a shot from the high slot that Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) redirected through the pads of Rasmus Tirronen. Downing's goal -the 50th of his career-- was his 15th of the season and first since Jan. 17.
Pesce ignited the Wildcats' second goal by bouncing a pass off the end boards to Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.), who delivered a no-look, backhand pass to Poturalski the low slot. Poturalski shifted the puck to his backhand and deposited his 13th goal of the season at 18:39 of the first for a 2-0 lead.
At the end of the first period, the Wildcats held a 2-0 advantage. UNH outshot Merrimack by a total of 11-3 in the frame.
Poturalski upped New Hampshire's lead to 3-0 at 15:15 of the second when he scooped up a rebound of Kelleher's shot from the left wing and rifled it past Tirronen for his 14th goal of the season, second of the night and third of the weekend.
With two periods in the books, the Wildcats held a 3-0 advantage. Tirone remained perfect through two periods as he made an additional three saves in the frame.
Just over midway through the third period, sophomore blueliner Matias Cleland (Longmont, Colo.) nearly got the Wildcats a fourth goal as he skated into the Merrimack zone and laid a backhanded shot on net, but it hit the crossbar and bounced away. Just minutes later, sophomore Collin Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.) had a similar experience as he ripped a shot that too hit the post. With just under four minutes left in the third period, Merrimack's Teddy McCarran almost got the Warriors on the board, but his shot hit the post and bounced away from play.
At the end of the game, the Wildcats prevailed for their first shutout of the season. Tirronen got the loss for the Warriors as he made 25 saves on 28 shots faced.
UNH will play host to either the University of Maine or the University of Connecticut in a best-of-3 Hockey East first-round playoff series next weekend at the Whittemore Center. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6. For tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call 603-862-4000, extension 5.