DURHAM, N.H. - The New Hampshire Wildcats finished with three power play goals on the way to beating the UConn Huskies 5-2 Friday night in game one of the Hockey East opening round best-of-three series from the Whittemore Center. The two teams will take the ice again on Saturday night for game two in the league playoff series.
The Wildcats got two goals each from Tyler Kelleher and Grayson Downing on the night as they finished 3-for-4 on the power play and held a 33-22 edge on shots. The Huskies were 0-for-4 with the extra skater in the loss.
UConn sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) finished with 28 saves in the loss and eclipsed the 1,000 save mark for the season (1,010). Nichols is the second goaltender in the country this season to reach 1,000 saves (Gordon Defiel, Lake Superior State) and becomes just the second player in school history to hit the mark (Garrett Bartus -2010, 2012).
UNH jumped out to a fast start with a 2-0 lead before the six minute mark of the first on a pair of goals that came 1:10 apart. Kelleher picked-up his first on a break-out chance at 4:38. Dan Correale carried up the left wing and fed Kelleher crashing the net. Nichols made a kick-save but the puck bounced in the air and off an UConn defender and in for a 1-0 lead.
On the play, Kelleher drew a hooking call on UConn giving UNH the first power play of the night. The Wildcats buried their first extra skater goal just 1:10 later as Matt Willows carried behind the net and fed a pass to Downing at the left post who buried it for a 2-0 UNH lead.
The New Hampshire special teams got the job done again in the second period, scoring consecutive power play goals just 20 seconds apart to build a 4-0 lead. UConn's David Drake (Naperville, Ill.) and Naas where called for consecutive penalties to give UNH a 5-on-3 chance at 7:54. The Wildcats capitalized at 8:12 on a Downing to Willows goal in front and then made it 4-0 just 20 seconds later as Kelleher got his second of the night, batting a loose puck in out front.
The Huskies got on the scoreboard at 13:32 in the second on Spencer Naas' (Minnetonka, Minn.) team-leading 13th goal of the season, his first in six games. Naas blasted a shot on net from the right circle through a Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.) screen. The puck deflected off a UNH defenseman and found its way over Danny Tirone's shoulder and in.
UConn cut the lead in half at 9:39 of the third period as junior Joey Ferriss (Novi, Mich.) picked-up his second goal of the season. Senior Ryan Tyson (Harleysville, Pa.) carried the puck in the zone and threw a shot on net. Ferriss worked hard to get to the far post and was waiting when the rebound found his stick to punch it in and cut the UNH lead to 4-2.
The Huskies pulled Nichols in the closing two minutes for an extra skater looking for an offensive boost but came up empty as the Wildcats tacked on an empty net goal at 19:15, Downing's second, to produce the 5-2 final.
Game two in the Hockey East opening round series will be Saturday night from the Whittemore Center. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 pm.