NO. ANDOVER, Mass. - Senior Greg Collins scored two goals and the Wildcats held off a late Merrimack charge as New Hampshire held on for a 4-3 win against the Warriors on Friday night at Lawler Arena.
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 17-9-5 overall, 13-7-4 in Hockey East. The Warriors drop to 8-19-4 overall, 4-17-3 in Hockey East. The two teams will rematch Saturday night at the Whittemore Center at 7:30 p.m. with the game airing live on NESN and being replayed Sunday morning across Canada on Rogers SportsNet.
After Mike Sislo scored his 18th of the year just 4:20 into the game to give the visitors the lead, Merrimack responded as Ryan Flanigan located a loose puck in front of goaltender Brian Foster and knocked it into the net for his second of the season at 10:17 of the first. Pat Bowen took the original shot which Foster stopped, but Flanigan was right there to knock it in. Joe Cucci, who scored two goals in a 5-1 win last Sunday over Providence, picked up the other assist.
But UNH responded immediately as Greg Collins beat Joe Cannata just 22-seconds later, taking passes from Paul Thompson and Peter LeBlanc for his fifth of the season.
Six seconds after the Wildcats killed their third penalty of the night, and with just 54-seconds left in the second period, Jamie Fritsch beat Cannata over his blocker from point-blank range as he took feeds from Danny Dries and Bobby Butler and extended the Wildcats' lead to two with his first of the season.
Collins added his second of the night, which proved to be the game-winner, at 7:04 of the third. The goal gave the Wildcats the 4-1 lead as the visitors appeared to have the game in hand.
After Chris Barton's breakaway attempt midway through the third was foiled by Foster, Karl Stollery wristed a shot past the Wildcat goaltender on the power play to cut the lead to two with 4:29 to play. Jesse Todd and Cucci earned the assists on Stollery's fourth of the season.
Then, with Cannata pulled for the extra attacker, Todd redirected a Bowen shot for his sixth of the season, cutting the lead to one with 1:46 to play. Rob Ricci started the play as he worked the puck to Bowen on the point, and the junior defender fired a shot to the right of Foster, and right to Todd, who tipped it in for Merrimack's second goal of the period.
But Merrimack's rally ended there, resulting in the 13th one-goal loss of the season for the Warriors, setting a new school record
Both goaltenders finished with 24 saves in the game as the Wildcats held a 28-27 advantage on the shots.
Todd added two more points in the game, giving the freshman forward 13 points in the last 11 games. Bowen and Cucci each tallied a pair of assists.