Durham, NH — Mike Souza’s New Hampshire Wildcats rode a frustrating Jekyll-and-Hyde first half of the 2019-20 season. They’d regularly perform well on the back-end of weekend series and not the front-end. They’d alternately show up big offensively or fall to the wayside. On Friday night, the Wildcats showed their Jekyll side against the Yale Bulldogs.
The fun began early. UNH won the opening draw and executed a flawless zone entry that ended with Angus Crookshank potting his 9th goal of the season a mere nine seconds into the game, a UNH record.
“Angus has great speed and a great shot on the offside,” said UNH Head Coach Mike Souza. “Good to start that way. I don’t know how many times this year, but I feel like three or four times we’ve scored on the first shift and find ourselves chasing the game later on. But that didn’t happen tonight.”
Yale controlled much of the pace for the remainder of the frame but entered the intermission trailing 1-0.
UNH’s third line sparked the offense in the second period. Swedish center Filip Engaras carried a puck behind the net and fed Eric Esposito at the left circle for a 2-0 UNH lead, a four-game point streak for the West Haven, CT native, and his first goal of the season. Yale cut into the lead with a high slot power play goal by Will D’Orsi after a Will MacKinnon interference minor. The Elis cut the game no closer before intermission or the final buzzer.
Max Gildon turned a blue line turnover into a 2on1 rush with Kohei Sato and Filip Engaras driving the play and Engaras scoring his third goal of the year. UNH tacked on one final goal with a Patrick Grasso empty-netter to close a 4-1 victory.
Yale falls to 5-8-0 in their first regulation game back from the Christmas break.
“The second period was our worst period even though we scored a goal,” commented Bulldog Head Coach Keith Allain. “The game was right there for us.”
Corbin Kaczperski stopped 21 shots on 24 shots faced.
Yale travels to Burlington to face the UVM Wildcats on Tuesday, January 7th. Puck drops at 7 pm ET at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Elis then play ancient rival Harvard in the Rivalry on Ice game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 11th. Puck drops at 8 pm ET in New York City.
New Hampshire improves to 9-8-1.
“I was happy for our team,” said Souza. “Sunday, we were in a similar situation and we ended up losing the game. That’s what we talked about between period; trusting the process and seeing the game through, how we managed the puck in the third period. I was proud of our kids.”
UNH is now 6-1-0 on home ice. “For the two years I’ve been here, Coach has talked about making this the toughest place to play in college hockey,” said Eric Esposito. “That’s how it was when he was here. The guys take a lot of pride in that and a lot of pride in the community around here. We get a lot of fan support and we try to give back by getting wins.”
Ty Taylor stopped 28 of 29 shots.
Filip Engaras recorded his first multi-point collegiate game. “Filip is a kid we’ve been really excited about,” commented Souza. “He had to sit out last year. For us, he’s like a freshman albeit he’s a sophomore. He’s a kid that only played eight games at this level after having never played a game in North America. A lot of guys come over from Europe and play a year in the USHL and the North American League to get acclimated to the style of play. Filip’s come right over from Sweden. He practiced with us all year, but we know that it’s not the same as getting in a live game. So he’s a kid with a bright future ahead of him.”
Jackson Pierson played his first game since an upper-body injury against Maine on November 15th, 2019. Eric MacAdams did not skate vs Yale thanks to a muscle spasm. Joe Sacco started the night but sat after one shift with the same problem.
The Wildcats host Brown on Saturday, January 4th and hope to keep in Dr. Jekyll form without an appearance from Mr. Hyde. Puck drops vs the Bears at 7 pm ET at the Whittemore Center. UNH returns to conference play next weekend with a home game against Northeastern. Puck drops vs the Huskies at 7 pm ET at the Whittemore Center on Saturday, January 11th.