Rob Ricci posts goal and assists for the Warriors

Rob Ricci had a goal and an assist for the Wildcats

DURHAM, N.H. - Despite holding a 3-2 advantage early in the third period, it was a pair of late goals that lifted Merrimack College to a 4-3 victory over the No. 15 University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team at the Whittemore Center Saturday night.

OTHER LINKS: Mark Dennehy Audio (mp3) - Dick Umile Audio (mp3)- Rob Ricci Audio (mp3)

The loss, which was UNH's first home loss during the 2008-09 season (5-1-1), drops the Wildcats to 5-6-3 on the season, 3-4-2 HEA, while Merrimack improves to 4-7-3 overall, 2-6-2 in Hockey East play.

The first of Merrimack's third period goals erased a 3-2 Wildcat lead as Rob Ricci tallied the goal at 7:37 with assists from Elliot Sheen and Chris Barton. The Warriors wouldn't wait long to pull ahead for good as Jesse Todd gave Merrimack the 4-3 advantage on a backside goal on the left hand side of the post assisted by Pat Kimball and John Jamieson at 10:53 for the eventual game-winner.

Just moments before Merrimack's two-goal effort, UNH pulled ahead early in the third period as Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) punched the puck into the upper right hand side of the net on a one-on-one fast break at 6:46, giving the Wildcats the 3-2 advantage. The even-strength goal was setup by Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario) and Joe Charlebois (Potsdam, N.Y.), who were each credited with assists. Charlbois has assists in each of the past four games, The Wildcats would have another chance to knot up the score later in the period as UNH went on the power play after a Elliot Sheen hooking penalty at 15:12, however, the Wildcats could not capitalize on the advantage.

The third period aside, the first two periods of action were near mirror images of one another as it as a back-and-forth battle for much of the game. Merrimack drew first blood in the contest as Bobby Kramer punched in the game's first goal to give the visitors the early 1-0 lead.

Silenced for much of the first period by Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata, who collected 12 saves in the stanza, the Wildcats would take momentum late in the period as they made use of the five-on-three advantage to tie Merrimack on a Kevin Kapstad (Boxboro, Mass.) goal from Charlebois and Butler at 18:02. The goal was the first of the year for Kapstad.

The second period would be deja vu for both squads, as Merrimack would once again push ahead to an early lead as Chris Barton would punch in a goal from the right point from Rob Ricci and Elliot Sheen at 4:08. UNH would answer back late in the period once again as James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) advanced the puck on a two on one fast break to set up Steve Moses (Leominster, Mass.), who slapped the puck into the left hand side of the net to tie the score at 2-2 at 14:16. For van Riemsdyk, it was his seventh straight game in which he has recorded a point. As for Moses, it is second career tally.

The Wildcats were 1-3 on the power play, while the Warriors were 0-2 in their extra-skater opportunities.

UNH netminder Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) stopped 23 shots by the Warriors, while freshman Joe Cannata notched 33 stops in the winning effort and improves to 2-1-3.

The Wildcats return to action on Friday, December 5 against UMass-Lowell at Tsongas Arena (7 p.m.). UNH returns home to plays host to UMass-Lowell on Saturday, December 6 (7 p.m.) at Whittemore Center.