Willows’ hat trick helps UNH finish sweep of Nebraska-Omaha
DURHAM — Junior forward Matt Willows scored a pair of quick-strike goals late in the third period to rally the University of New Hampshire hockey team to a 5-2 win over No. 19-ranked Nebraska-Omaha in front of 3,752 at the Whittemore Center on Saturday night.
Willows added an empty-net goal with 1:44 to play for his second career hat trick.
The Wildcats scored four goals in a four-and-a-half minute span to come from behind and blow the game open.
“We just liked the way the team competed all weekend,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “It was fun. It was exciting. It got the building going.
It got us going.”
UNH swept the weekend series against the Mavericks and won its third straight game overall to up its record to 12-10-1.
Nebraska-Omaha fell to 8-9-1.
UNH plays Dartmouth on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the annual Battle for the RiverStone Cup contest.
The Wildcats and Big Green took a year off from the RiverStone game last season while UNH played in Dartmouth’s holiday tournament.
The Wildcats scored two power-play goals for the third straight game.
They were 0-for-5 on the power play before Willows scored one to tie the game at 2-2 with 6:14 to play. Kevin Goumas and Nick Sorkin had assists.
“We tied it up and it was like a whole ’nother wind,” Sorkin said. “It was great.”
Less than two minutes later, Willows kept on a two-on-one on the left with Goumas breaking toward the net from the right. Willows shot and beat Maverick freshman goalie Kirk Thompson for the game-winner.
Sorkin scored UNH’s second power-play goal of the game with 2:54 left from Goumas and defenseman Eric Knodel.
Goumas centers a line for Sorkin on the left and Willows on the right.
Sorkin finished with the goal and two assists. Goumas had three assists.
Casey DeSmith, a junior from Rochester, made 26 saves for the win.
The Mavericks took a 2-1 lead on a Ryan Walters four-on-three power-play goal 3:21 into the third period.
The Wildcats were in all kinds of trouble as the second period ended.
Penalties on Dalton Speelman and Justin Agosta with 32 seconds to go in the period left UNH facing a two-man power play for two minutes. A slashing penalty on Goumas as the period ended added to the problems.
Nebraska-Omaha turned the power plays into the 2-1 lead.
They held the lead through the midway point of the period, but the Wildcats weren’t getting anxious, Umile said.
“It’s only a goal,” he said. “It’s not like we were down by two.
You’ve got to stay with it, whether you have to pull the goalie or not. I don’t think anyone was panicking.”
As they did on Friday night, the Mavericks struck first on Saturday.
Josh Archibald, who had two goals on Friday, threw the puck on net from a tough angle to DeSmith’s left and it went off the glove of UNH defender Brett Pesce and into the net as he tried to knock it away.
Nebraska-Omaha had the lead with 6:09 left on the period.
On Friday night, UNH answered the Maverick goal with a couple of Knodel power-play goals. On Saturday, Thompson stopped all six first-period shots he saw.
The Wildcats got it tied quickly in the second period. Casey Thrush scored in close with Collin Bourque, a freshman from Goffstown, and freshman defenseman Matias Cleland assisting 1:52 into the period.
Cleland sent the puck in toward the net and Bourque knocked it down for Thrush, who put it past Thompson. Bourque had his first collegiate point with an assist on Friday night.
The Wildcats, who scored on two of their first three power-play chances on Friday, came up empty on four power plays in the second period.
After the Datmouth game next week, UNH is back here for a pair against No. 6 Union on Jan 17 and 18. The Union games wrap up UNH’s nonconference schedule.