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January 25. 2013 10:46PM

Men's College Hockey: Merrimack skates past Wildcats


 
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - Thirty-two and seven.

Those two numbers haunted the No. 4-ranked University of New Hampshire hockey team on Friday night in a 3-2 loss to Merrimack College at Lawler Arena.

First, the Wildcats gave up a goal 32 seconds after they had taken a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Then Merrimack scored a killer of a goal seven seconds into the third period for what proved to be the decisive goal.

The loss puts all kinds of pressure on tonight. UNH and Merrimack go at it again at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester in a 5 p.m. game.

"We've just got to find a way to come back and get a split for the weekend," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "We'll talk about that when we get back tonight."

The Wildcats fell to 14-6-2 overall and 9-5-1 in Hockey East and, coupled with last Saturday's 6-5 setback against Providence, have lost consecutive league games for the first time this season.

Boston University slipped past UNH into second place in the league with a 3-2 win at Providence on Friday night.

Merrimack improved to 10-9-5 and 8-5-2 and joins PC in fourth place, a point behind UNH.

Junior Jeff Wyer made 32 saves in his first start of the season for UNH and the second of his career. "I thought he competed hard," Umile said.

Wyer's first start came early last season when he had 24 saves in a 3-3 tie at St. Cloud State. He had come on in relief of Casey DeSmith, a sophomore from Rochester, in two of UNH's three previous games.

Umile said DeSmith will be back in net tonight at the Verizon.

Junior forward Mike Collins figured in all the Merrimack goals, scoring the first two and adding an assist on the third.

Merrimack needed just those seven seconds at the start of the third period to grab the lead.

Collins won the faceoff to open the period to Jordan Heywood, who got the puck to Brian Christie and the Warriors charged the UNH end. Christie beat Wyer with a shot low to the stick side.

"The bottom line was they made the play in the third," Umile said. "Right off the faceoff. It deflected off (Justin) Agosta's stick and went the other direction on Jeff."

After spotting Merrimack a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Wildcats jumped in front with a couple of goals in the first half of the second.

Junior defenseman Eric Knodel got the first goal with a shot from out front that deflected off a Warrior in front and past Sam Marotta (29 saves) for 1-1 at the 3:50 mark of the period.

Casey Thrush gave UNH a 2-1 lead at 9:40 with a nice move, spinning out from behind the net and putting the puck under Marotta.

The lead lasted 32 seconds.

Collins added a goal to go with his first-period tally and it was 2-2.

"They came right back and Collins scored a great goal from the short side, a heckuva goal," Umile said.

Merrimack quickly grabbed back any edge UNH might have collected.

"Right after we took the lead, the next shift is the most important one to get it back down in their zone," Knodel said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it and they got the momentum right back."

Collins scored his first goal on a shot from near the right faceoff circle with exactly one minute left in the first period. Brian Christie and Quinn Gould, linemates of Collins, assisted on both of his goals.





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