DURHAM, N.H. — Another shorthanded goal by the University of New Hampshire proved pivotal Friday night as the Wildcats regained momentum and went on to post a 4-1 men’s hockey victory over Maine at the Whittemore Center.
James van Riemsdyk’s second-period shorthander after Maine had scored just 1:42 earlier.
It was UNH’s fifth straight win over Maine at the Whittemore Center.
It was a shorthanded goal with 6:58 remaining that sparked a three-goal rally that led the Wildcats to a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Maine on Jan. 4.
UNH improved to 13-8-4 overall, 9-6-3 in Hockey East. Maine fell to 11-13-3 and 6-10-2, respectively.
Maine is now 1-8-2 in its last 11 games while UNH is 8-2-1.
It was UNH’s fifth straight win over Maine at the Whittemore Center and the Wildcats have outscored the Bears 14-5 in the streak.
Danny Dries and Steve Moses staked UNH to a 2-0 lead with goals 3:32 apart within the game’s first 5:17.
Matt Duffy’s power-play goal past goalie Brian Foster pulled Maine within 2-1 at the 3:25 mark of the second period, but van Riemsdyk answered and Mike Sislo made it 4-1 and all but sewed up the win with 3:56 remaining in the middle period.
Sislo scored the shorthanded goal that jumpstarted UNH’s rally on Jan. 4.
Jamie Fritsch started the play that led to van Riemsdyk’s crucial goal by winning a one-on-one battle with Maine’s Spencer Abbott in the defensive zone and then sending the puck up to Sislo. That created a two-on-two.
Sislo broke down the right wing and slid the puck across to van Riemsdyk, who was able to get his stick free from Maine defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin and direct the puck past Dave Wilson.
“Sislo made a great play,” said van Riemsdyk. “I was just able to get my stick on it and redirect it in the net.”
Sislo said he was being confronted by a Maine defenseman so he threw the puck across in the hopes that van Riemsdyk could use his “great reach.”
Danis-Pepin shouldered blame for the goal.
“I lifted his stick, but then he was able to put it down on the ice for a split-second and it hit the puck,” said Danis-Pepin.
“That was the turning point in the game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead, whose team has given up three shorthanded goals on the season.
“That goal killed us,” said Duffy.
It was first-round draft pick van Riemsdyk’s first goal since returning from the World Junior Championships. He had just one assist in six games since the World Juniors.
Maine had a couple of power-play chances later in the period but was unable to capitalize. Maine lost leading scorer Gustav Nyquist to a neck injury earlier in the period.
Nyquist sustained the injury when UNH defenseman Kevin Kapstad steamrolled him on the opening whistle. Nyquist, a key component on Maine’s power play, played the rest of the first period but didn’t play after that.
Sislo’s goal came seconds after Maine had a great opportunity to pull within 3-2 when Abbott fed an unattended Van Dyk in the low slot.
But Van Dyk’s shot sailed over the net as it may have hit a UNH stick.
Moments later, Maine defenseman Ryan Hegarty mishandled the puck at the blue line. Sislo poked it free and broke down the right wing in a two-on-one.
Sislo snapped a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Wilson over his glove into the short-side corner.
“I saw some space in the upper short-side corner,” said Sislo.
Wilson said he had his left shoulder against the post, “but I didn’t get my glove up” and Sislo’s shot hit the crossbar and went in.
The goal was reminiscent of the one Sislo scored on Jan. 4, only that one deflected off a Maine stick before nestling in the short-side corner.
Dries opened the scoring by wheeling out of the corner to Wilson’s right and firing a wrist shot from the top of the left circle over Wilson’s glove.
“A defenseman cut in front of me as the shot came and I went down. The shot rose quickly,” said Wilson.
Moses made it 2-0 off a three-on-two as he wristed a shot from the top of the right circle past Wilson.
“I opened up my blocker arm and it went between my arm and my body,” said Wilson, who felt he should have made the save.
UNH had the game’s first 10 shots on goal.
“We came out tentative. We were scared to make mistakes,” said Whitehead.
“We were intimidated. We have a lot of young guys who had never played here before,” said Maine senior center Chris Hahn.
“We wanted to get off to a quick start,” said Sislo. “We had been getting off to slow starts and we wanted to change that.”
There was a sellout crowd of 6,501 on Whiteout Night at the Whit.
Duffy gave the Bears some life with a one-timer from the midpoint, his third career goal against UNH. That gave Maine a power play goal in nine of its last 10 games.
But that’s all the Bears could muster.
“UNH was definitely the better team,” said Whitehead. “They deserved to win. They outplayed us.”
UNH outshot Maine 32-22.
The teams play again tonight in Manchester, N.H.