HANOVER — Freshman Joe Cipollone’s first career goal for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team came about in odd fashion. It also proved to be the game-winner for the Wildcats in their 3-2 victory over in-state rival Dartmouth College with 2,114 fans in attendance Friday night at Thompson Arena.
Dartmouth defenseman Charley Michalowski blocked a shot by UNH forward Frankie Cefalu with his arm and the puck proceeded to drop like a stone in front of Big Green netminder Adrian Clark. Cipollone picked up the loose puck with only Clark (13 saves) in front of him before scoring on a low shot from close range.
Friday marked Cipollone’s fourth career game in a UNH sweater.
“We talk about funneling pucks to the net,” Cipollone said. “That’s what (Cefalu) tried to do and the puck was just laying there for me and I didn’t think about it. I just took the shot and luckily it went in.”
The Wildcats (3-7-5) will host Dartmouth (4-4-1) tonight (7 p.m.) to conclude the home-and-home series.
Michalowski traditionally plays forward but has served on Dartmouth’s blue line throughout the season.
UNH forwards Charlie Kelleher (lower body) and Jackson Pierson (upper body) were ruled out for the Dartmouth series earlier this week.
Cipollone and Cefalu skated with Joe Sacco on the Wildcats’ fourth line. UNH coach Mike Souza said Cipollone performed well during practice this week and the coaching staff wanted to reward him with an opportunity to play.
“I thought that line played solid and it’s funny how the game rewards you when you’re just continually trying to do the right things,” Souza said.
The Big Green had three shots bounce off either the post or crossbar in the final period. Dartmouth came up empty on each of its five power-play opportunities, two of which came in the third period. Dartmouth began its fifth power play 19 seconds after Cipollone’s tie-breaking goal.
The Big Green outshot UNH, 19-10, through two periods and 27-16 overall.
“We worked our tails off and, for the most part, I like the way the guys played,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “And at times it looked like we were really wearing them down and we just weren’t able to get that go-ahead.”
Dartmouth knotted the score at 2-2 with 6:54 remaining in the second period, when Drew O’Connor redirected a Harrison Markel shot past UNH freshman netminder Ty Taylor (25 saves).
Brendan van Riemsdyk and Justin Fregona both found the back of the net over the opening 11:10 of the contest to build a 2-0 Wildcats advantage. Fregona’s tally, which came shortly after Marcus Vela won a faceoff in the Dartmouth zone, marked his first point of the season.
Dartmouth forward Shane Sellar put his team on the board with 43.2 seconds left in the opening period to spoil the Wildcats’ aspirations of entering the first intermission with a two-goal lead. The junior scored from the doorstep following a behind-the-net feed from Jeff Losurdo.
Sellar’s tally marked his first point in four games and first goal since logging two in Dartmouth’s season-opening 7-6 win over Harvard Oct. 27.
Taylor, who earned his first collegiate win Friday, last started in the Wildcats’ 3-3 tie with Miami of Ohio Nov. 23.
“He’s a big kid, he covers a lot of net and he did that tonight,” Souza said of Taylor.
Wildcats senior defenseman Richie Boyd returned to the lineup after missing last Saturday’s game against Providence with a muscular injury.
“We’ve worked hard and we definitely earned this win tonight,” Cipollone said. “Hopefully, we can bounce back and get another win at home (tonight).”