DURHAM, N.H. - Senior Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) and sophomore Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) each tallied three points, while freshman Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) potted his first two career goals, as the University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team defeated Northeastern University, 4-2, Friday night in its Hockey East opener in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,501 at the Whittemore Center.
The win improves the Wildcats' record to 1-2-1 on the season, including 1-0-0 in Hockey East, while the Huskies fall to 2-2-0 overall and 0-1-0 in the conference. New Hampshire was now won three-straight Hockey East openers dating back to the 2007-08 season.
UNH jumped on the board first at 14:41 of the first period when Speelman netted the first goal of his collegiate career. Kessel rifled a shot from the left side, just inside the blue line, that was saved by NU goalkeeper Chris Rawlings. The rebound came out to Rawlings' left, where Butler pushed the puck toward Speelman, who put it into the back of the net.
The Wildcats gained a 2-0 advantage just 24 seconds into the second period when Speelman recorded his second of the game. Senior Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario) took a shot from the left point that Rawlings steered away toward the endline on his right. Butler dove for the puck and backhanded it into the slot, where LeBlanc wristed a shot that went off Speelman's skate and past Rawlings. Speelman's performance marked the first time a freshman scored two goals in a game for UNH since last season when Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) tallied two at home against Providence on Feb. 13.
Just over five minutes later, UNH went on top 3-0 with a power-play goal off the stick of Butler. Kessel held the puck inside the blue line on the right side before he slid it across to junior Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.), who quickly connected with Butler just below the left circle on the endline. Butler held, then surprised everyone by wristing a shot from an impossible angle that went off of Rawlings and into the goal.
Northeastern recorded a power-play tally of its own to open the scoring in the final period. Robbie Vrolyk passed the puck from the left circle into the high slot where Wade MacLeod sent a wrist shot toward the net that beat senior goaltender Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) just inside the right post at 4:43.
UNH re-captured its three-goal lead on the man advantage exactly seven minutes later when Kessel fed junior Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) at the top of the left circle for a one-timer that was blasted past Rawlings. The goal was the first of the year for Sislo, who was the team leader in goals a year ago. The three assists were a career best for Kessel, who also posted his second three-point performance in as many games. Junior Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) also earned an assist on the play.
The Huskies closed the scoring with 5:40 to go in the contest when they took advantage of a Wildcat turnover in their own zone. The puck was passed out from behind the net through the slot, where MacLeod intercepted it and took a shot that beat Foster for his second of the game. Jim Driscoll was credited with an assist on the play.
Foster made 14 saves for the Wildcats, while Rawlings stopped 30 shots for the Huskies, who were outshot 34-16.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday night (7 p.m.) when they play host to the University of Maine in their annual "White Out the Whit" game at the Whittemore Center.