Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Feel-good weekend
DURHAM -- NO. 19 NEBRASKA-OMAHA scored a power-play goal less than four minutes into the third period to take a 2-1 lead over the University of New Hampshire on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center.
The Wildcats looked on the bright side. The Mavericks had a lengthy two-man power play to open the period and it could have been worse.
"We got out of it down one," said senior forward Nick Sorkin.
The Wildcats — and particularly Sorkin and his linemates Matt Willows, a junior, and Kevin Goumas, a senior — went to work and proceeded to turn the game around.
UNH, which had not won a game in which they had trailed in the third period, exploded for four goals in a four-and-a half minute span late in the period to post a 5-2 win.
"We knew once they got that goal we had to come back that much harder," Willows said. "We never let down. We never put our heads down."
Willows scored a power-play goal with 6:14 left to tie the game at 2-2. Less than two minutes later, he kept the puck on a two-on-one break with Goumas and fired a shot that beat the Maverick goalie for 3-2.
Sorkin scored on the power play and then Goumas unselfishly passed to Willows for an empty net goal to complete a hat trick and finish the Mavericks off.
It was the second career hat trick for Willows, who had one in the Hockey East quarterfinals last year against Providence.
The thing was, it was unclear earlier in the day whether Willows would even play in the game. He got bumped in the third period of Friday night's 6-3 win over Nebraska-Omaha and had a slight shoulder sprain. He was cleared to play, elected to dress and played a major role in finishing off the weekend sweep.
Willows scored six goals in the first 20 games of the season and has five in the last three. He had four goals for the weekend, Goumas registered a goal and five assists and Sorkin a goal and four assists.
Another of several UNH bright spots over the weekend was the play of Collin Bourque, a 5-foot-7 freshman forward out of Goffstown.
Bourque collected his first collegiate point with an assist on a Willows goal on Friday night and added an assist on Casey Thrush's first goal of the game on Saturday night. Bourque has played in five games.
The Wildcats have scored two power-play goals in each of their last three games and won them all.
"This was a huge win for us," said UNH coach Dick Umile late on Saturday night. "Big weekend. Back-to-back wins and we put ourselves feeling good. Hopefully we can continue to go forward."
The Wildcats take a 12-10-1 record into Saturday's Battle for the RiverStone Cup game against Dartmouth at 5 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Big Green are 2-11-2 and have been playing nothing but close games for more than a month. Sophomore goalie Charles Grant had 33 saves in a 1-1 tie at Vermont on Friday and Dartmouth plays at Boston University on Wednesday.
THE men's and women's basketball teams each have a game against an Ivy League opponent on Tuesday night before they swing into America East play later in the week.
The women play Yale at home on Tuesday and open their league schedule with a home game against Stony Brook on Saturday at 1. Yale is 5-7 and Stony Brook is 8-4.
The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak with a 77-74 overtime win at Brown on Friday.
Kristen Anderson, a freshman guard out of Greene, Maine, led UNH with 30 points and sophomore guard Elizabeth Belanger added 20.
Anderson's total was the most by a freshman since Kris Kinney, the women's all-time leading scorer, had 33 in an 83-76 loss to Boston University at home on Feb. 6, 1986.
Anderson made 10 of her 16 field goals and six of nine three-pointers.
She had six points in the first half, 21 at the end of regulation and added nine in overtime. She also had eight rebounds.
The men are at Brown on Tuesday night and get back to league play at Binghamton on Thursday night.
UNH is 2-11 and 0-1 in the league.
The Wildcats dropped a tough one on Saturday at home to Sacred Heart, 66-53. The Pioneers improved to 3-12.
Coach Bill Herrion hopes 6-foot-10 senior center Chris Pelcher, the team's leading rebounder and scorer, returns shortly. Pelcher broke a bone in his right leg and has missed the last seven games.
He may be able to play this week.
"We need to get him back," Herrion said. "So much of our offense involves him. We're not scoring around the basket. We're not trying to get it inside. He opens things up for other people."
Pelcher is averaging 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game.
Freshman guard Daniel Dion returned to the team late last week.
He had been suspended indefinitely and missed three games, including Saturday's.
"He needed to refocus on basketball," Herrion said. "He needed to refocus on his commitment to the program."
THE men's and women's skiing teams open the season with the alpine portion of the Vermont Carnival on Friday and Saturday at Stowe ... The gymnastics team opens the season on Saturday at Rutgers ... The women's hockey team, 7-10-2 overall and 2-3-2 in Hockey East, plays Providence at home on Friday night and is at Providence on Saturday night.