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Matt Willows hat trick fuels New Hampshire to weekend sweep of Boston University

After scoring eight goals his first two collegiate season, Matt Willows is having a breakout year for the Wildcats, and has now tallied 17 goals.

BOSTON - Matt Willows entered last Friday's matchup with Boston University with two multi-goal games all season.

Two contests later against the Terriers, and Willows matched that total.

For the second straight game, the junior forward scored multiple goals against Boston University, and just like Friday night, New Hampshire downed its Hockey East rival, this time by a score of 3-1 on the strength of a Willows hat trick.

"I was pleased with the way the team played," said UNH head coach Dick Umile. "Tonight we played a 60 minute game, and thought we were solid from start to finish.

"And obviously Matty is playing extremely well."

Willows has been one of New Hampshire's most effective forwards all season, and is now the Wildcats leading goal scorer after his big weekend. With UNH in the thick of a logjam of teams vying for the second to seventh seed in Hockey East, the four-point weekend against Boston University came at the perfect time.

"[Willows] was a big goal scorer for the Hitmen in the Eastern Junior League," said Umile. "His junior year he's just taken off, and that's typically what happens in this league."

In the Monday win over the Boston University, it was the homestanding Terriers that got on the board first. After UNH took eight of the first nine shots on goal, the Terriers second shot found the back of the net.

On the game's first goal Monday afternoon, Mike Moran got in on the forecheck and won the puck before getting it to Brendan Collier. The freshman took the puck down the wall and fired a sharp angle shot past Casey DeSmith that deflected off his shoulder and in.

"[Collier] has just been more tenacious; he's playing with more confidence," said BU head coach David Quinn of his freshman forward. "The goal he scored... Collier beats his guy off the wall, and picks up the loose puck and throws the puck to the net.

"It's not a beauty contest, and we didn't do enough of that at all. You look at the shot charts, and we spent zero time at their net front."

But DeSmith settled in after giving up the goal, and UNH continued to apply pressure on BU. Eventually, Willows would be the beneficiary of that pressure. After taking a pass at the blue line, Willows tapped a pass to Kevin Goumas. His linemate took the puck below the goal line, and gave it back to a cutting Willows, who deposited the puck on the backhand to tie the game at one.

"Me and Kevin work great together; we're actually roommates, we live together, and we have great chemistry," said Willows. "We know each other are on the ice, and we've been working well together."

The second period would begin better for the Terriers, and result in Boston University earning a power play. But in the waning seconds of that man advantage, Willows intercepted a point-to-point pass. He sped up ice past both Ahti Oskanen and Patrick MacGregor, and roofed the puck over the glove of Sean Maguire for a shorthanded tally, and New Hampshire's first lead of the day at 2-1.

"It always feels good to get goals. Getting goals is probably the best feeling in the world," said Willows. "Obviously, getting a couple of goals [Friday] night you come into the game with a bit of momentum, but it's a team effort."

Maguire locked in after that, and made a number of quality saves to keep the Terriers deficit at one. He stopped a Dan Correale slapper on a two-on-one with an athletic move across the crease, and stopped a penalty shot from Willows to deny a hat trick bid midway through the second period.

"I didn't know what I was doing going down, and I went with something, and it didn't work," said Willows of his penalty shot. "[Maguire] is a great goalie, he had a great game, made some huge saves, and he played well for them. It was a good save."

Willows would eventually tally his third goal with only 77 seconds remaining and an empty net. Combined with his performance Friday night, the junior posted five goals in the home-and-home series against the Terriers.

"I just played hard," said Willows. "We work hard in practice; get the puck deep, use your speed, and good things happen when you play hard."

The weekend sweep of the Terriers catapulted the Wildcats into a tie with Maine for third place in the Hockey East standings. The Black Bears have two games in hand on New Hampshire, who has the upcoming weekend off.

"Points are hard to come by in this league; just look at the standings," said Umile. "With the exception of BC, who is ahead of everybody else, it's up for grabs here.

"Getting home ice is going to be real difficult."