DURHAM, N.H. - UConn sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) turned in a career-high 42 saves but the New Hampshire Wildcats scored a pair of third period goals to beat the Huskies 2-0 and win the Hockey East Opening Round series Saturday night at the Whittemore Center. The Huskies see their season come to an end, finishing their first campaign in Hockey East at 10-19-7.
Nichols eclipsed the 40 save mark for the fourth time this season, topping the 41-save efforts he had at Maine, Notre Dame and Merrimack earlier in the year.
The two teams skated to a scoreless first period with UNH edging the Huskies on shots 11-6. The Huskies had a pair of solid scoring chances as senior Cody Sharib (Needham, Mass.) was stopped on the doorstep in the opening minutes and junior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) blasted a slap shot low and hard off the right post with eight minutes left in the period.
After no penalties in the first period, the Wildcats got four power plays in the second but couldn't solve Nichols who made 19 saves in the period. UNH's Brett Pesce got a great look with 14:30 left, blasting a one-timer from the point off the post.
The Wildcats continued to test Nichols in the third as Andrew Poturlaski got loose on a breakaway just over five minutes in but was stoned at the doorstep by the Husky netminder. UNH kept possession and a pair of Tyler Kelleher point blank shots were turned away as well. The Wildcats finally broke through at the 11:02 mark but only after another tremendous Nichols save.
Pesce started the play with a beautiful pass through the neutral zone to Jamie Hill for a break-out. Hill split the defenders and walked in for a breakaway but was turned away by Nichols. The Wildcats crashed the net and Kyle Smith was able to bang in a rebound before a pile up in front knocked the net off the moorings. The goal was reviewed giving UNH the lead midway through the third.
The Huskies got their second power play of the night at 12:09 but came up with just one shot on goal with the extra skater. The Wildcats were able to tack on an insurance goal with 47 seconds left as a turnover deep in the UConn zone led to a Grayson Downing blast from the left circle for a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats held a 44-19 edge on shots while neither team scored on the power play.
UNH will move on to a best-of-three quarterfinal series next week.
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