MINNEAPOLIS - Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) tallied a goal and an assist and Kyle Smith (Lumberton, N.J.) dished out a pair of assists to lift the 12th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Friday night's season-opening, 4-1, win over Clarkson University in the opening round of the Ice Breaker tournament at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
UNH opens the season 1-0-0 and captures its second-straight season opener. Clarkson drops to 2-1-0 on the young season. The Wildcats advance to championship game of the Ice Breaker for the third time in three tries. New Hampshire is a perfect 5-0 in the tournament in three trips.
New Hampshire netminder Jeff Wyer (Reading, Mass.) stopped a career-high 33 shots en route to the victory. He moves to 1-0-0, while Clarkson's Greg Lewis allowed four goals and made 29 saves in a losing effort. He falls to 1-1-0.
Clarkson had the better of play early in the first, but the Golden Knights were held off the board by great play in net by Wyer, who turned away three point-blank shots. New Hampshire broke through first as Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) scored on a slap shot from the left point. Willows' centering pass deflected to Knodel at the point for the one-timer. Smith also assisted on the game's first goal at 14:27. The lead didn't last long as Clarkson got on the board at 15:50 as James de Hass scored a power play goal with assists from Will Frederick and Joe Zarbo. The pace-break scoring continued as the Wildcats regained the lead as Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) stole a Clarkson breakout attempt and carried it in on net. His initial bid was turned away, but it setup Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.) on the doorstep for his first collegiate goal at 16:28, the eventual game winner. Clarkson held a 12-8 shot advantage in the frame.
New Hampshire controlled play in the second period and produced the stanza's only goal. Willows fired a wrester from the right circle that snuck past a screened Greg Lewis into the far-side of the net. Smith, who provided the much needed screen on the goal, also earned the primary assist and Casey Thrush (Easton, Md.) also added a helper at 3:03 of the period. UNH had the best of 5-on-5 play, but the Golden Knights used a pair of power plays to gain back some momentum in the period. The Wildcats outshot Clarkson 16-9 in the period.
The Wildcats added a critical insurance goal in the early minutes of the third period. Dan Correale (Prince George, British Columbia) scored on a deflected puck that bounced over the shoulder of Lewis at 1:54 at make it 4-1. Trevor van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) setup the goal for New Hampshire. In the rest of a fast-paced third period, the Golden Knights were pressing to cut into the UNH lead, but could get no closer. Clarkson held a 13-9 shot advantage for the period and a slim 34-33 edge for the game.
The Golden Knights scored their lone goal on the power play and went 1-5 on the night, while UNH was 0-4 in its extra skater opportunities.
UNH concludes play in the Ice Breaker Tournament on Saturday night. The Wildcats will play the winner of the Minnesota/Mercyhurst game for the championship at 8 p.m. New Hampshire's first home series is Oct. 18-19 against Big Ten foe Michigan. For more information on season ticket packages and individual tickets, call (603) 862-4000, extension 5, or click here. For more information on the UNH hockey program, visit www.unhwildcats.com or follow UNH athletics on Twitter (@UNHWildcats).