DURHAM, N.H. — The University of New Hampshire lost five of its top eight scorers off last year’s NCAA Tournament team and the three returnees among the eight, Bobby Butler, Peter LeBlanc and Mike Sislo, were held off the scoresheet by Maine on Saturday night.
But the line of sophomore Mike Borisenok between sophomore right wing Stevie Moses and junior left wing picked up the slack, combining for three goals and four assists to lead the Wildcats to a 5-2 victory over the Black Bears at the Whittemore Center.
The trio had registered a total of 19 goals in 118 career games entering Saturday’s game, but Moses broke a 1-1 tie with his first two goals of the season in the second period, assisted by both linemates each time, and Borisenok added a power-play goal with 1:46 left in the period to expand the lead to 4-1.
Maine defenseman Will O’Neill scored on one of four third-period, power-play chances awarded to the Bears with 8:56 remaining, but UNH senior goalie Brian Foster made 10 third-period saves, including five Grade-A (high-percentage) stops, to prevent the Bears from pulling any closer. Blake Kessel added an empty-net goal with 1:10 remaining.
Maine had taken a 1-0 lead on a Tanner House power-play goal from the slot at the 9:23 mark of the first period as he one-timed a Gustav Nyquist pass past Foster.
But, for the third time this season, the opposing team answered exactly 17 seconds later. Greg Manz equalized when his centering pass from the corner glanced in off the pad of freshman goalie Shawn Sirman.
Maine has lost all three games in which that happened.
UNH improved to 2-2-1 overall with the win, 2-0 in Hockey East. Maine (1-5, 0-2 HE) has now lost its last six at the Whittemore Center.
The Bears have lost their last eight Hockey East regular-season games and are 0-9-1 in their last 10. They have also lost their last 10 of their last 11 league road games with the only win coming over UNH in Manchester, N.H.
Sirman made his first start and surrendered four goals on 22 shots through the first two periods before being replaced by sophomore Scott Darling at the outset of the third period.
UNH outshot Maine 15-5 in the second period thanks to three consecutive Maine minor penalties on Jeff Dimmen, Kyle Solomon and House over the final 8:26 of the period.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said his team generated enough scoring chances to win but didn’t do a good enough job protecting the front of its net and lost momentum in the second period due to the penalties.
“We have to play with more urgency on defense,” said Whitehead. “Our goalies are struggling to get their confidence and we aren’t protecting them.”
“Shawn played well, but we left him out to dry,” said Maine senior center David deKastrozza.
Moses snapped the 1-1 tie at the 3:31 mark of the middle period. He sliced across the low slot after taking a Thompson pass from the corner and easily roofed a backhander before Sirman could scramble across.
“Thompson made a nice pass and I had time to pull it around the goalie,” said Moses, who made it 3-1 12:10 later when he was left unattended in the slot and beat Sirman with a wrister off Borisenok’s cross-ice pass.
“I was able to find a soft [open] area. I caught the pass and got off a nice, low shot,” said Moses.
Borisenok converted on the power play when he was able to park himself just outside the crease and tap home the rebound of Damon Kipp’s low shot from the midpoint.
The Bears pressured Foster in the third period to try to claw their way back into the game, but he made several important stops, including an early one off Matt Mangene, who was set up at the doorstep by Adam Shemansky.
O’Neill scored when he closed from the point to within 16 feet and one-timed a Nyquist pass past Foster.
O’Neill had another promising opportunity a few minutes later, but his one-timer from the point was gloved by Foster.
“We played very well for two periods,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We were sloppy in the third period and took too many penalties. But Foster made saves when he had to, and we did a good job penalty-killing.”
UNH outshot Maine 26-24 and the Bears also hurt themselves by missing the net 13 times and having 10 shots blocked.