DURHAM, N.H. - Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) and Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) both recorded two goals and two assists to propel the University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team to Saturday night's 7-2 victory against 16th-ranked University of Massachusetts in Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which won the season series (2-1-0) vs. the Minutemen with the victory, extended its Hockey East unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2) to improve to 9-7-4 overall and 9-2-3 in the league; the seven goals marked a season high for the Wildcats. UMass is now 11-8-0, 6-6-0.
The four points was a career high for Butler, whose two goals equaled his personal best. For Thompson, the two assists tied a career high. Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.), who matched his personal best of three points with a goal and two assists, and Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario; two assists) also recorded multiple points for the Wildcats.
Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.) made 26 saves, including 12 in the second period, between the pipes for the 'Cats and UMass counterpart Dan Meyers was also credited with 26 saves.
The Wildcats netted four first-period goals - it marked the second time this season the 'Cats scored four goals in a period - and seized momentum early in the game with a power-play goal at 4:52 and an even-strength tally 37 seconds later for a 2-0 lead. Thompson opened the scoring when he redirected Kessel's slapshot from the high slot inside the right post. Butler, with a pass of the left half-boards, was also credited with an assist.
Butler potted his 14th goal of the season to extend the advantage to two goals at 5:29. Thompson skated from behind the net to the low slot and slid a pass towards the right post and Butler lifted the puck into the open net. Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.), alongside Thompson behind the net, also set up the tally.
UMass went on its second power play of the game at 15:54, but it was the Wildcats who scored to build a 3-0 lead. Thompson intercepted a pass in the high slot and quickly advanced the puck to Butler on the right wing. Butler carried the puck to the circle and saucered a centering pass that Thompson batted down and controlled before firing a shot into the cage at 16:37.
UNH extended the advantage to 4-0 just 1:46 later - at 18:23 -- when Kevin McCarey (Baldwinsvile, N.Y.) skated down the slot, shifted to the right past Meyers and pushed the puck into the open net. Greg Burke (Lee, N.H.), with the outlet pass, and LeBlanc were credited with assists. It was McCarey's first career tally.
The Minutemen scored 23 seconds into the second period to close within 4-1. T.J. Syner blocked a shot in the high slot and tracked down the puck at center ice to create a breakaway. He rushed down the slot and wristed a close-range shot into the net.
UMass continued to pressure in the second minute, but Foster stopped Brian Keane's initial shot from the slot as well as Rocco Carzo's bid off the rebound at the left doorstep. Less than a minute later with a faceoff in the left circle, Casey Wellman drew the puck back to Syner, who snapped a shot that was snared by Foster.
New Hampshire responded with a breakout that resulted in a goal - and a 5-1 lead - at 3:34. Kessel's outlet pass through the neutral zone was collected by LeBlanc at the blue line. He skated down the slot and continued to the right corner, then threw a pass into the high slot, where the charging Butler skated onto the puck and fired a slap shot inside the right post.
UNH netted its second power-play goal of the game to take a 6-1 lead at 15:17 on Kessel's slap shot from the high slot. Brett Kostolansky (Denver, Colo.) and Thompson set up the tally.
The 'Cats maintained that five-goal advantage until late in the third period, when UMass struck at 17:33 on an extra attacker goal (on a delayed penalty call against UNH) to make the score 6-2. Wellman's initial shot from the slot sailed wide right of the cage, but the rebound caromed to the right post, where Carzo deposited a shot into the net. Matt Irwin was also credited with an assist.
UNH answered with a goal 27 seconds later, however, to reestablish a five-goal cushion. Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) intercepted a pass in the slot and wristed a shot into the upper-right corner of the net to close the game scoring.
New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 16 in the Battle for the RiverStone IX against intrastate rival Dartmouth College. Game time at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester (N.H.) is 7 p.m.