NORTH ANDOVER — New Hampshire struck twice in a 28-second stretch of the first period and held on, beating No. 6/7 Merrimack College 2-1 last night in front of a sellout crowd of 2,489 at Merrimack's Lawler Arena.
Grayson Downing scored his seventh of the season on a delayed penalty. Under rules implemented last season, the Wildcats still went on the power play, despite the goal, and struck again just 28 seconds later when Hockey East leading scorer Stevie Moses potted his 17th of the season.
The Warriors' penalties proved to be their undoing, giving the Wildcats six power plays in the first two periods of which they went 1 for 6, but put a whopping 18 shots on goal including three power plays in the second period, that despite not scoring, gave UNH all the momentum it needed, outshooting Merrimack 18-3 in the frame.
UNH finished the night with 33 shots on Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata, who made 31 saves.
Vice versa, the Warriors were blanked on their two power-play chances, putting just one puck on UNH rookie goalie Casey DeSmith (24 saves).
"The way we kill penalties, we're going to give up shots," Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. "We did more damage to ourselves with the number of penalties we took in a row. How many times did we get the puck on our stick and not get it out? When you get the puck on your stick it has to come out, period."
A tale of one period
After getting outplayed through two periods, the Warriors finally showed some life in the third period, outshooting UNH 12-7 and out-attempting the Wildcats 29-10, but DeSmith had answers when the Warriors came calling as they weren't able to net the equalizer despite multiple offensive flurries on the doorstep.
"We played one good period of hockey," he said. "We're not going to beat anyone doing that. UNH came in with a plan, they came in with some determination.
"We were either unprepared or unwilling to play the way we needed to play. If someone can explain to me those first two periods and that one period and the difference. You want to explain that to me, put it in a bottle, and I'll buy it."
Three in a row for UNH
UNH won its third game in a row for the first time since it won four in a row in late October after closing 2011 losing seven of eight games.
DeSmith, a freshman, took over between the pipes and improved to 3-2 with a 1.82 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
In a role reversal from recent years, it was the Wildcats who grinded out a win over a potent Merrimack team, who came in ranked sixth and seventh in the major polls while UNH was out of the voting completely.
"It was a great win for us," head coack Dick Umile said "We played a real gritty game, blocking shots. It was an opportunity for us this weekend, playing one of the top teams."
The Warriors and Wildcats will faceoff again tonight (7 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center in Durham.
Da Costa recalled to NHL
Former Merrimack center Stephane Da Costa was recalled to the Ottawa Senators on Friday, a day after the Sens lost a pair of players, Zack Smith and Kaspars Daugavins, to injuries in a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Da Costa posted five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 22 NHL games earlier this season before being assigned to the AHL on Nov. 27.
Since, he's posted 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 21 AHL games with the Binghamton Senators.
In 67 games over the course of two seasons with the Warriors, Da Costa scored 30 goals and added 60 assists.
At the conclusion of last season, he became the first former Merrimack player to appear in an NHL game since Matt Foy skated in 28 games for the Minnesota Wild in 2007-08.
UNH 2, Merrimack 1
New Hampshire (9-11-2, 6-8-1 HE): 2-0-0—2
Merrimack (12-5-5, 8-4-3 HE)L 0-1-0—1
First Period: 1. UNH Grayson Downing 7 (Connor Hardowa), ev, 13:32; 2. UNH Stevie Moses 17 (Nick Sorkin, Brett Kostolansky), pp, 13:51.
Second Period: 3. MC Ryan Flanigan 7 (Carter Madsen, Jeff Velleca), ev, 11:28.
Third Period: None.
Shots: Merrimack 10-3-12—25; New Hampshire 10-16-7-33
Goalies: MC Cannata 33 shots, 31 saves; UNH DeSmith 25 shots, 24 saves
Power Play: Merrimack 0 for 2 (2 shots); New Hampshire 1 for 6 (18 shots)
Penalties: Merrimack 8-16:00; New Hampshire 3-6:00
Faceoffs: 37-29 Merrimack
Attendance: 2,489 (sellout)
Next: at New Hampshire tonight, 7 p.m.