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UNH hockey team knocked down in first game as No. 1

  • University of New Hampshire's John Henrion gets caught against the boards with Boston University's Evan Rodrigues during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    University of New Hampshire's John Henrion gets caught against the boards with Boston University's Evan Rodrigues during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A referee broke up a fight between University of New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin, right, and Boston University's Alexx Privitera during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    A referee broke up a fight between University of New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin, right, and Boston University's Alexx Privitera during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • University of New Hampshire's John Henrion gets caught against the boards with Boston University's Evan Rodrigues during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • A referee broke up a fight between University of New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin, right, and Boston University's Alexx Privitera during the hockey game Thursday evening, December 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

DURHAM – Maybe it wasn’t ready. Maybe it felt the pressure of its No. 1 ranking. Or maybe, in a season where so much has gone right, it was just due for this sort of start all along.

Whatever the reason, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team didn’t need to wait long to meet its match as the No. 1 team in the country. The Wildcats, for once, were the team losing puck battles, missing on opportunities and falling behind quickly, a result of their own errors and pressure applied by the newfound giant killers from Boston University.

Only four days after reaching the top of the polls, the Wildcats stumbled in their first test, falling into a three-goal hole before suffering their first regulation loss, 3-2, to No. 7 BU at the Whittemore Center despite a rally over the final period and a half.

“We came up short. Obviously, spotting BU three goals is not a good formula,” Coach Dick Umile said. “But the guys battled the second and third period. I liked the way they competed.”

The Terriers were tough, but the Wildcats didn’t help themselves. UNH (11-2-2, 8-2-1) was down 3-0 just over eight minutes into the second period, and the power play units couldn’t take advantage of the ample opportunities and bring the Wildcats back, sputtering to a 1-for-9 performance on the night.

“We had our chances,” Umile said. “We could have done a better job (on the power play), obviously.”

The power play had a chance to salvage the game for the Wildcats, as BU captain Wade Megan went to the box for interference with 2:07 to go. Despite starting 5-on-4 and eventually building the advantage to 6-on-4, UNH couldn’t get control of the puck enough for good puck movement, managing only a Kevin Goumas shot that Terriers goalie Matt O’Connor saw all the way.

“There was some traffic, I think he got a good view of it,” said Goumas, who had UNH’s first goal. “It’s so late in the game, you just want to get pucks to the net.”

A sellout crowd of 6,501 came to see UNH’s first game as the top team in the country, but the Terriers (9-5-0, 7-4-0), who defeated then-No. 1 Boston College last weekend, kept the fans quiet early. Megan chipped in a loose puck in a scrum in front of the net, giving BU the lead only 4:39 into the game.

“They were definitely hungrier than we were in the first period,” said UNH senior forward John Henrion, who scored the Wildcats’ other goal. “That’s not how we’ve been playing.”

BU kept it up in the second period, as Sahir Gill finished off a 2-on-1 four minutes in and Sam Kurker scored on a rebound off the glass 8:03 into the period.

“We just came out a little flat. They were winning stick battles, winning every puck race,” Goumas said. “Just mentally tougher than us from the start, and it showed.”

The power play missed its first five chances of the game, but UNH finally broke through on the man advantage with 5:55 left in the period when Nick Sorkin had the puck left of O’Connor and zipped a pass along the goal line to Goumas, who fired in a one-timer to make it 3-1.

The goal energized the Wildcats, who controlled play the rest of the way. They inched closer with 8:06 to go, after establishing possession in the BU end. Defenseman Justin Agosta ripped a shot that O’Connor saved, but the rebound went straight to Henrion, who found the net from the left circle to make it 3-2.

That was all UNH could muster, though the Wildcats, who outshot BU 9-7 in the period, maintained the pressure until the end.

“I think we’re really composed this year,” Henrion said. “Everyone’s confident. When we get down a couple of goals, we don’t really panic as much as we would have in the past.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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