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UNH hockey gets split with Merrimack after 6-2 victory

MANCHESTER – Given recent results, if yesterday’s game against Merrimack wasn’t a must-win situation for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team, it was close to it.

The Wildcats responded with a 6-2 victory over the Warriors at Verizon Wireless Arena to earn a split of the weekend series.

Merrimack won Friday’s game, 3-2, in North Andover, Mass.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 15-6-2 overall and 10-5-1 in Hockey East. UNH had dropped three of its previous four games.

“We needed that in a big way,” UNH Coach Dick Umile said.

Six players scored for UNH, which scored six goals in a game for just the second time this season.

Grayson Downing finished with a goal and an assist and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk had four assists and was named the game’s MVP.

Connor Hardowa and Austin Block each had a goal and an assist. Freshmen Dan Correale and Collin MacDonald added their first career goals.

Dalton Speelman also scored and goalie Casey DeSmith made 35 saves after sitting out Friday’s game. The sophomore was pulled in two of his previous three starts.

“We had confidence he was going to bounce back,” Umile said. “He did his part. It was an important win for us.”

Locked in a 1-1 tie, the Wildcats scored four straight goals – including three in the second period – to break the game open.

The Wildcats erupted for three goals in the middle frame, including two in the final 61 seconds.

MacDonald converted as time expired on a cross-crease pass from van Riemsdyk to cap an odd-man rush that also included John Henrion, who poked the puck ahead to van Riemsdyk.

“That was definitely huge,” van Riemsdyk said. “The last few games we’ve been kind of struggling. It was nice to have that lead and be able to play our game and not grip the stick too tightly as you tend to do when you’re on a little bit of a skid.”

Hardowa scored the go-ahead goal on a blast from the left circle that snuck under the crossbar at 12:23 of the second period.

It was the Wildcats’ second power-play goal of the game and came seconds after Downing hit the post with a slap shot.

Correale, who was playing on the first line with Downing and Block, made it 3-1 on a rebound with 1:02 remaining in the second.

“It was a good opportunity for me and I just tried to run with it,” Correale said. “I haven’t scored in a long time so it was a big monkey off my back. It feels good and hopefully I can keep rolling from there.”

“Danny brought a lot of jam to that line tonight,” Umile said. “He did a good job. He not only scored a goal, but put a lot of pressure on them forechecking. It was an important game for (Correale) and Collin MacDonald and they responded very well.”

Trailing 1-0, the Warriors pulled even on Ben Bahe’s first career goal 4:32 of the second period. He was assisted by Rhett Bly, whose centering feed from the behind the cage found Bahe alone in front.

Dalton Speelman made it 5-1 at 8:51 of the third period on a breakaway just 11 seconds after UNH killed off a penalty to Block for interference.

After taking a pass from Matt Willows, Speelman beat Marotta with a backhander. Merrimack answered 1:16 later to make it 5-2.

Downing capped the scoring by sinking the rebound of an Eric Knodel shot from the left point with 1:39 to play.

“They’re a good team,” Merrimack Coach Mark Dennehy said. “They don’t need a lot of good looks to make things happen.”

UNH led 1-0 at the end of one period on a power-play goal by Block, the senior forward’s team-leading 11th goal of the season.

Block looked like he was trying to center the puck to Kevin Goumas when it struck goalie Sam Marotta’s blocker and deflected behind him at 7:29 of the first period.

The Wildcats had a two-man advantage after Merrimack’s Kyle Singleton was called for holding Correale on a partial breakaway at 6:04 and Dan Kolomatis was penalized for interference at 7:01.

UNH scored 28 seconds later with Hardowa and van Riemsdyk assisting.

“We’ve been on a little bit of skid,” van Riemsdyk said. “You go through ups and downs over the course of the year. It’s not a must-win, but a pretty big win. It’s to see nice to see that given a little adversity we can show up and get a big effort from everyone.”

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