College Hockey: Wildcats fall behind, stay behind
DURHAM — No. 17 New Hampshire found itself in a hole early on Friday night in front of 4,045 at the Whittemore Center.
There was no digging out of it against No. 6 Union and the Wildcats dropped a 3-1 decision.
Union snapped UNH's win streak and took a step up in the two-game set that concludes tonight at 7 back at the Whittemore Center.
"It wasn't our best effort," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "It's disappointing. We just didn't make plays when we had opportunity to make plays."
Union grabbed a 2-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old and made it 3-0 less than six minutes into the second period.
"Falling behind 3-zip is not the way to go," Umile said.
The Wildcats finally got on the board 47 seconds into the third period when senior center Nick Sorkin finished off a three-on-one break with an assist going to Matt Willows. A pass from Willows deflected off a defenseman and the puck went to Sorkin, who put it behind goalie Colin Stevens.
UNH senior Jeff Silengo hit the post from in tight less than two minutes later.
Goalie Casey DeSmith, a junior from Rochester, made a couple of nice saves after that to keep his team within two goals.
But the Wildcats would get no closer.
UNH went on the power play with five minute to play, but did little with the chance. UNH was 0-for-three on the power play, but one was for only 10 seconds.
DeSmith finished with 29 saves.
Stevens stopped 38 shots, including 18 in the third period when his team was outshot 19-11.
The Wildcats fell to 13-11-1 overall. They are 8-6-1 against nonconference opponents.
Union improved to 14-4-3. The Dutchmen are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games.
Union's Matt Hatch knocked in a rebound after a scramble in front to open the scoring 4:21 into the game.
In each game of their four-game win streak, the Wildcats had given up the first goal.
They had not gone down 2-0 in any of them. Until Friday night.
Michel Pontarelli gave Union its two-goal edge on a four-on-two break with a shot from straight-on that beat DeSmith to the glove side.
"I thought we had some puck luck on our breaks," said Union coach Rick Bennett. "And we found the back of the net."
UNH senior Kevin Goumas put a shot off the post for UNH when it was still 1-0.
Stevens stopped a flurry of Wildcat shots with about 7:30 to play in the first period, ending the string with a glove save on a shot by defenseman Eric Knodel.
The hole for UNH got deeper early in the second period.
DeSmith made a couple of saves in close late in a Union power play, but then the puck bounced out to Daniel Carr and he fired it back past the goalie for 3-0 at 5:49 of the period.
Tonight's game is UNH's last of the regular season against a non-league opponent.
"We've got to come back and find a way to win and get the series split," Umile said.
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UNH and Union had played only six times before Friday night. UNH led the series 5-1 and had won four straight, including a 2-1 decision in overtime when last the teams met on Oct. 28, 2011. . . . UNH won the first game between the teams, 8-0, on Dec. 26, 1941. . . . The Wildcats get back to Hockey East play after this weekend. They face Maine at home on Friday and the teams turn around after that game and head to Orono for a game on Saturday night. . . . The next weekend, UNH faces Notre Dame as a Hockey East opponent. The Fighting Irish come to the Whittemore Center for games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.