DURHAM, N.H. — Senior left wing Paul Thompson’s second goal of the game, coming on a four-on-three power play with 12:54 remaining in the third period, and a breakaway save by Matt DiGirolamo off Gustav Nyquist 19 seconds later, enabled the University of New Hampshire Wildcats to earn a hard-fought 6-3 men’s hockey victory over the University of Maine Black Bears at the Whittemore Center Friday night.
UNH improved to 16-5-4 overall, 14-2-2 in Hockey East.
Maine fell to 11-8-6 and 8-6-4. Maine’s winless streak was extended to four games (0-2-2) and the Black Bears have now lost seven straight at the Whittemore Center.
Maine was without right winger Joey Diamond, who was suspended by Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna for one game for tripping BU goalie Kieran Millan from behind last Friday night. Diamond will return for Saturday night’s game.
Thompson’s goal gave the Wildcats a 5-3 lead and Mike Beck scored his first of the season with 5:04 left to ice it.
“It’s like Groundhog Day,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We’ve had a lot of games like this. We play well enough to get points but we don’t get any. We didn’t quit and we won’t quit.”
Maine outshot UNH 40-25 and had 36 Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances compared to UNH’s 19.
But DiGirolamo made 22 Grade A saves, including several critical stops late in the second period and in the third period, to stymie the Black Bears.
“He came up with some great stops,” said Nyquist, who had his first career hat trick.
“It’s nice to get a hat trick. I’ve been snake-bitten lately. But it doesn’t mean anything because we lost,” said Nyquist, who snapped a nine-game goal-less drought and generated nine shots on goal.
Thompson’s goal came off a pinpoint pass from Blake Kessel as two Maine penalty-killers got tangled up and another left the far post open.
Thompson simply had to tap it into the vacant net.
“My job is to screen on the four-on-three but I also have the option to peel off and go back door,” said Thompson. “Blake made a great play.”
“That was a big goal,” said Whitehead.
Nyquist broke in alone on DiGirolamo seconds later but DiGirolamo closed his pads to thwart Nyquist.
“I thought he’d expect me to make a move so I tried to get a quick shot off. He was already down and he made the save,” said Nyquist. “I’d like to have that one back.”
“That save was a huge turning point,” said Thompson.
Maine’s Tanner House had a glittering chance a few minutes later with a wrister from the low slot but DiGirolamo made the pad save.
Beck sewed it up when he was left unattended cruising the middle of the slot and wristed a Mike Sislo pass over the glove of Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.
Nyquist’s third power-play goal of the game, coming with 1:51 left in the second period, had pulled Maine within 4-3.
He collected the puck in the right circle and snapped a wrister that broke between the arm and body of DiGirolamo.
House had a good chance moments later but, again, DiGirolamo came through with a stop to preserve the lead.
“(Nyquist) and I had a lot of chances tonight. We’ve got to bury more of them,” said House.
UNH built a 4-2 lead in a frenetic first period with Dalton Speelman breaking a 2-2 tie on the power play at the 11:39 mark and Kevin Goumas extending the lead 4:25 later.
Thompson and Austin Block had scored earlier in the period to provide UNH with a pair of one-goal leads but two Nyquist power-play goals leveled matters.
Speelman, parked at the top of the crease, flipped the rebound of a Kessel point shot past Ouellette.
Goumas scored off a two-on-one with Stevie Moses as he swept a Moses pass behind Ouellette.
Thompson had opened the scoring when he was left alone in the middle of the slot and roofed a pass from Phil DeSimone over the glove of Ouellette.
Nyquist equalized when he chipped a diagonal pass from Tanner House into the short-side corner from the base of the right circle.
Block scored when John Henrion’s shot off the boards behind the net came to him in the right circle and he fired a wrister that squeezed between Ouellette’s pads.
Nyquist tied it again when DiGirolamo spit out a soft rebound off Will O’Neill’s wrister from the point and he jammed home the rebound.
House said the Bears have to be more consistent and pay attention to detail.
“We knew we had to keep our heads on a swivel and protect the back door. And how many back door goals did they get: three or four?,” said House. “We’ll have three good shifts and then we’ll have a bad one and they’ll score.”
Ouellette finished with nine Grade-A saves among his 19.
Maine went 3-for-4 on the power play, their first three power play goal game since the 7-3 win over North Dakota on Oct. 22.
UNH went 2-for-3 with the man advantage.