Men's Hockey: Wildcats take big hit in Hockey East

By Justin Loring
On February 11, 2014

On the heels of a weekend sweep against Notre Dame, the UNH Wildcats suffered back-to-back losses to Vermont. On Saturday night, the team lost by a score of 2-1. Nick Sorkin scored the lone goal for the Wildcats while Casey DeSmith notched 28 saves.

After a scoreless first period, UVM lit the lamp first on a deflection from Pete Massar. Yvan Pattyn wound up a slap shot from the point with Massar screening in front of the net. The puck found Massar's stick, beating DeSmith under his leg pad. 

The Catamounts added another goal less than three minutes later off a turnover in the UNH end. Brendan Bradley received the puck along the halfboard and spotted Mario Puskarich in front of the net. His centering pass found Puskarich in the slot, who made the score 2-0. 

UNH was able to garner momentum when Jonathan Turk was called for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Eric Knodel tried to hit Sorkin with a one-time pass but Sorkin whiffed on the shot. UNH got the puck back in the zone and Sorkin took a shot that hit a defenseman and beat Mike Santaguida on the stick side.

Despite a flurry of activity in the third period, which saw UNH outshoot Vermont by a margin of 14-5, the Wildcats were unable to score.

"We just couldn't get the job done," Sorkin said. "You just have to put it behind you and focus on next weekend."

In a game which head coach Dick Umile described as the "worst game I've ever seen," UNH lost on Friday night by a score of 5-2. Chris McCarthy and Bradley each tallied three points on the night (one goal, two assists) for the Catamounts while Santaguida recorded 26 saves on 28 shots.

"I have no answers, we were awful," Umile said on Friday. "Right from the beginning ... they just absolutely flat-out beat us."

UNH's top line helped the team jump to a quick lead just 6:22 into the game. Sorkin carried the puck to the faceoff circle where he fed Willows behind the net. Willows drew the defense and slid the puck behind Caylen Wells to a trailing Kevin Goumas, who netted his 13th goal of the season.

Vermont answered with a pair of goals just 42 seconds apart in the first. Brendan Bradley got it started when he knocked home a loose puck in the crease. Puskarich got off the initial shot that was stopped by DeSmith, but a scrum ensued and Bradley found the back of the net.

Brady Shaw scored the Catamounts second goal at 10:53, taking advantage of a positioning error by DeSmith. Shaw took a wraparound shot that beat a sprawling DeSmith to take a 2-1 lead.

UNH was dealt a huge blow early in the second period when Grayson Downing, in just his first game back from a shoulder injury, lost an edge on the rush and crashed hard in the boards. Hitting the same shoulder that he injured three weeks ago, Downing stayed on the ice in pain while the trainers tended to him. Umile said after the game that he expects him to miss about "two to three weeks".

Vermont increased the advantage to three in the second period after a power play goal by Connor Brickley. Brickley found space in front of the net and put his shot past DeSmith for his third goal of the season.

UNH was able to take advantage of a power play of its own after the second intermission. Willows drew the defense in deep, finding Pesce open at the point. Pesce stepped up into the high slot and put a wrist shot inside the left post to cut the deficit down to 3-2.

UVM countered again, however, with two more goals less than 40 seconds apart. McCarthy scored his second of the evening on a quick shot near the post that caught DeSmith out of position. Mario Puskarich also scored his 12th of the season to bring the game to its final, 5-2.

With consecutive losses, UNH (16-15-1, 8-8-0) is tied for fourth place with Maine at 16 points. Northeastern holds the third spot (17 points), while BC holds a demanding lead for first (27 points) over second-place team UMass-Lowell (20 points).

UNH will play its final home game of the season on Friday night, facing Boston University this weekend in a home-and-home series. Boston University (8-15-4, 3-8-3) has one win in their last 13 games, with the Terriers in a transitional season after longtime coach Jack Parker retired at the end of last season. BU made their mark early in the season, beating teams like then-ranked No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Providence and No. 14 North Dakota. 



Justin Loring can be reached on Twitter @JLo_TNH

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