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UNH lacks fire, falls to Dartmouth, 4-1

Mike Keenan and Brett Patterson celebrate with Ryan Bullock (center) after assisting him on Dartmouth's second goal against #2 UNH in Hanover, N.H., on Sunday, December 30, 2012. Dartmouth won, 4-1.
Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

Mike Keenan and Brett Patterson celebrate with Ryan Bullock (center) after assisting him on Dartmouth's second goal against #2 UNH in Hanover, N.H., on Sunday, December 30, 2012. Dartmouth won, 4-1. Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

HANOVER – Austin Block’s stare fixed straight ahead, his disappointment, frustration and anger apparent to all gathered underneath the stands at Thompson Arena.

“There was a serious lack of effort tonight,” the senior forward said.

It didn’t take much to know what was on his mind. It was everything. It was the slow start, a second straight game against a top-10 team that saw the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team sleepwalk to a quick deficit. It was the bad penalty Nick Sorkin took that set up a crucial Dartmouth goal.

And most of all, it was the final result, a never-in-doubt 4-1 loss at the hands of the Big Green in the first night of the Ledyard Bank Classic.

The loss knocked No. 2 UNH (11-3-2) into the consolation game against Bemidji State today at 4 p.m., and Coach Dick Umile said that’s exactly what the Wildcats deserved.

“They were the better team,” he said. “Tonight, they out-competed us.”

There was no question in the first period. The No. 10 Big Green (8-2-2) roared out and quickly snagged a pair of goals, as Nick Bligh scored from the slot when his shot beat a screened Casey DeSmith 6:05 into the game, and Ryan Bullock’s slapshot from the blue line bounced off a UNH defender and in 11:19 into the contest.

“(The effort) wasn’t there for us, even from the start,” senior defenseman and captain Connor Hardowa said. “They won the battles and they beat us to pucks all over.”

UNH seemed to come out rejuvenated in the second period, as Block scored only 46 seconds in on a last-second feed from Grayson Downing on a 2-on-1. But Sorkin went to the box for roughing 12:19 into the period and Dartmouth cracked UNH’s airtight penalty kill, as Tyler Sikura knocked in DeSmith’s muffed save of an Andy Simpson shot for the goal against a unit that was ranked second in the country entering the game.

Brandon McNally iced the game with an empty-netter with 1:16 left.

“We’ve got to be smarter and stay out of the box,” Block said. “I think we have enough smart guys on the team to know that’s not a smart penalty.”

It was UNH’s first game after the holiday break, but it was the second straight time the Wildcats struggled to match their opponent’s intensity. UNH went down 3-0 against Boston University in the first-half finale and was unable to rally back, losing 3-2.

“It’s probably coaching. Not having them ready,” Umile said. “But I thought we were ready, and obviously we weren’t ready in the first period, for whatever reason.”

As they did against the Terriers, the Wildcats showed their strength in the third period of yesterday’s game, outshooting Dartmouth 15-5. But once again, the hole was too deep to climb out of, and the players expressed that that can’t be the story week to week.

“We didn’t match their intensity, and it showed on the scoreboard. That’s not how we play hockey,” Block said. “Luckily we know that we have the skill and the work ethic to bounce back and win, so hopefully we can do that tomorrow.”

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

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