Durham, NH. – For the first time in over 580 days, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats had fans in attendance at the Whittemore Center on the UNH campus. The 3,409 Wildcat faithful were rewarded with a dominant 4-1 victory over the Union College Dutchmen. The Wildcats had goals from two seniors and two freshmen, and eight players total figuring in on the scoring, to open the season scoring.
Union hasn’t played a game in just as long as UNH fans were kept out of the building but that didn’t seem to matter to Rick Bennett‘s squad early. The visiting Dutchmen struck first but that would be the best that Union would muster throughout the game.
Sophomore Gleb Murtazin spotted the Dutchmen the 1-0 lead at 18:00 when he knocked in a loose puck in front of the UNH goal. The Wildcats challenged the goal for Goalie Interference, as Mike Robinson (9 saves) was knocked down before the shot came in, but the challenge was to no avail.
Murtazin was sent off for Hooking at 7:50 giving the Wildcats their first power-play of the season. Freshman Robert Cronin tied the game at 1-1 when he one-timed a slapshot from the left face-off dot past Dutchmen goalie Connor Murphy 9:15. The junior goalie from Hudson Falls, NY had 37 saves on the evening.
Union had a two-on-one bid broken up by a sliding Alex Gagne early in the second period.
The Wildcats pulled ahead for good at 17:42 of the second period when senior Eric MacAdams sniped a snapshot past Murphy on a three-on-one rush. MacAdams’ first tally of the season was career goal number 20 while Filip Engaras assisted on the goal.
In the third, the Wildcats built on their lead with two goals in the first ten minutes of action.
First, freshman Liam Devlin tallied his first career goal at 2:21 when he tapped a rebound past a sprawling Murphy to make it 3-1 Wildcats. Nikolai Jensen was credited with the helper.
Union’s Captain Josh Kosack was called for Boarding at 7:45 giving the Wildcats their third man-advantage of the game. They made sure to capitalize in front of the Wildcats student section.
Senior Engaras capped off the opening night festivities at 8:14 with a power-play goal when he stuffed a wraparound attempt past Murphy to make it 4-1.
The Wildcats outshot the Dutchmen 41-11 and controlled the face-off battle by a similar 42-18 margin.
“I was pleased with the way we played,” said Wildcats coach Mike Souza. “We won the special teams battle, we had some timely saves when we had to. We did a really good job with possessing pucks in the offensive zone. I thought when we managed the puck and put pucks to the net in the offensive zone we were able to create a lot of chaos around the goal and we were fortunate to find the back of the net four times.”
“Both guys (Devlin and Cronin) got rewarded tonight,” said Souza of his freshman goal scorers. “I thought Devlin was physical all night long, Robert’s a cerebral player. I thought Alex Gagne was really solid in his first time out as well. Nice to have the freshmen contribute but it was especially nice having some of the upperclassmen led the charge.”
“It was a team effort tonight, top to bottom. Everyone contributed, every single guy that was dressed contributed to us winning tonight,” added the fourth-year bench boss.