DURHAM — The University of New Hampshire hockey team got a long string of in-state games off to a good start with a 6-3 win over No. 19 Nebraska-Omaha in front of 2,987 at the Whittemore Center on Friday night.
Senior defenseman Eric Knodel jump-started things with a pair of power-play goals in the first period, the Wildcats scored three times late in the second period to break it open and a couple of freshmen — including forward Collin Bourque of Goffstown — contributed their first collegiate points.
UNH improved to 11-10-1 for the season and the Mavericks fell to 8-8-1.
The teams meet again tonight at 7 at the Whittemore Center in the series finale.
The Wildcats leave the state only once for a game — at Maine on Jan.
25 — between now and Valentine's Day.
UNH plays Dartmouth College next Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena at 5 p.m. in the Battle for the RiverStone Cup.
No. 6-ranked Union comes to Durham for games on Jan. 17 and 18.
Casey DeSmith, a junior from Rochester, made 21 saves for the win. He upped his record for the season to 9-8-0.
Junior Ryan Massa had 20 saves for the Mavericks. Freshman Kirk Thompson came on after UNH scored its fifth goal and had nine saves.
The Wildcats blew open a 2-2 game with three goals in a span of less than six minutes in the second half of the middle period. Matt Willows deflected in a pass from Kevin Goumas for 3-2 with 7:42 left in the period. Bourque made a nice pass to Goumas to get the play going. Bourque was playing in his fourth game.
Dan Correale scored on a pretty backhander in close with 4:04 to go and Casey Thrush scored on a similar shot with 2:06 left to run it to 5-2.
Freshman defenseman Dylan Maller, who played in his first game last weekend, had an assist on the Correale goal.
The Mavericks opened the scoring just 3:34 into the game when junior forward Josh Archibald knocked a rebound back past DeSmith.
The Wildcats, and Knodel in particular, responded with the two power-play goals.
UNH had three power plays in the period and Knodel scored on two of them both from a little above the left faceoff circle.
Junior defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk slid the puck across to Knodel for an assist on the first goal at 9:20 of the period and senior forwards Goumas and Nick Sorkin had assists on the second with 31.7 seconds left.
Nebraska-Omaha freshman forward Austin Ortega tied it again 4:15 into the second period on a blast over DeSmith's right shoulder.
The Wildcats went to work after that.
Goumas scored an empty net goal with 1:42 left to go with his two assists. He has eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points to lead the Wildcats ... van Riemsdyk had three assists in the game and is at 4-18-22 for the season ... Knodel had two goals in a game for the first time in his career. He has five for the season.