Freshmen Blake Kessel nets game-winner for UNH late in third period

Blake Kessel netted the game-winner for the Wildcats

DURHAM, N.H. - Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) broke a 2-2 tie with 1:50 remaining in the game and Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) recorded two assists to lift the 15th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Saturday night's 3-2 victory against 17th-ranked University of Massachusetts-Lowell in Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.

UNH completed the weekend series sweep of the River Hawks - the Wildcats were 2-0 road victors Friday night - to improve to 7-6-3 overall and 5-4-2 in Hockey East. UML is now 8-7-0, 5-5-0.

The score was tied 1-1 at the start of the third and the visitors went on a 5x3 power play for 54 seconds at 8:54. UNH goaltender Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) twice denied Nick Schaus from the top of the left circle and the Wildcats held UML's attack at bay the rest of the two-skater advantage.

The River Hawks capitalized on the remaining power play, however, to take a 2-1 lead at 10:44. Kory Falite won the puck in the right corner to the right point and Maury Edwards blasted a high shot into the upper-right corner of the net. Ben Holmstrom was also credited with an assist.

That lead was short-lived, however, as UNH tied the score 74 seconds later on a goal by Jerry Pollastrone (Revere, Mass.) as his centering pass intended for Butler glanced off a UML defender inside the right post. Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario), with the pass to Pollastrone in the left circle, and Butler set up the tally. The goal was Pollastrone's first of the season.

New Hampshire went on its sixth power play of the night at 16:31 and UML goalie Nevin Hamilton denied Joe Charlebois (Potsdam, N.Y.) on a screened shot from the high slot and Danny Dries (Lake Orion, Mich.) off the rebound at the left post.

The Wildcats continued to pressure and took their first lead of the night on Kessel's power-play tally at 18:10. Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.), positioned in the slot, slid a pass to Kessel on the left wing and his high shot sailed into the net. James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) initiated the scoring sequence.

UML pulled Hamilton in favor of an extra skater with 52 seconds remaining and called time out with 14.8 on the clock. The River Hawks won the faceoff back to the right point and Edwards' blast through traffic was stopped by Foster. UNH won the battle for control of the rebound in the slot and swept the puck to the left dashers. The Wildcats then sent the puck the length of the ice to run out the clock.

Foster finished the game with 15 saves, including seven in the third period. Hamilton made 12 of his 28 saves in the second stanza.

UNH potted the only goal of the second period to level the score, 1-1, heading into the final frame. The initial shot by Kevin Kapstad (Boxboro, Mass.) from the left circle was stopped by Hamilton, but Butler collected the rebound in the slot and moved the puck low to the right, where Greg Collins (Fairport, N.Y.) lifted a shot into the net.

In the opening minutes of the second period, UML created an odd-man rush in which Mike Potacco carried the puck into the right circle and fired a shot that was turned aside by Foster. In the sixth minute, Potacco had a shorthanded breakaway but his shot from the slot was stopped by Foster's right leg pad.

In the 10th minute, Mike Sislo's (Superior, Wis.) sweeping shot along the ice caromed off the left post. Moments later, with UNH on the power play, Sislo's wrist shot from the right circle clanged off the right post.

UMass-Lowell took a 1-0 lead at 1:51 of the first period and took that advantage into the first intermission. Nick Schaus initiated the scoring sequence with a pass from the right point to fellow defenseman Jeremy Dehner at the left point. Dehner's dump in caromed off the end boards back to the left post. Chris Auger swept the puck to the top of the crease, where Sammy D'Agostino lifted the puck into the open right side.

UNH had a pair of dangerous rushes in the opening stanza. In the ninth minute, the 'Cats generated a 2-on-1 breakaway in which Pollastrone's shot from the slot ricocheted off the crossbar. One minute later, a centering pass from the left circle by Thomas Fortney (Webster Grove, Mo.) was redirected on net by Collins, but Hamilton slid to the top of the crease to make the save.

New Hampshire returns to action Dec. 11 at home against College of the Holy Cross. Game time at the Whittemore Center is 7 p.m.