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Quick Start Vaults UNH Past Merrimack

New Hampshire scored twice in the first three minutes of the first period and finished a 4-2 win over Merrimack on Saturday night at J. Thom Lawler Arena.

Andrew Poturalski
Andrew Poturalski
Matt Dewkett

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- The third period of last Friday's game could not have gone any worse for New Hampshire as it allowed four third-period goals at UMass and held on for just a tie, but the Wildcats responded with a big road win at Union to get back on track.

After a week off, UNH got back into Hockey East play and put together a big effort on Saturday night at Merrimack's Lawler Arena. The Wildcats only put 20 shots on net, but made them count in a 4-2 win over the No. 17 Warriors.

"Stuff like that (third period last Friday) happens, and the guys responded well," UNH head coach Dick Umile said. "This was a huge game for us with a couple people out. We'll take it. This was a great effort for our team."

The loss was Merrimack's first of the season and its record now stands at 3-1-2. UNH is now in the Hockey East win column, standing at 1-0-1 in league play and 3-2-1 overall.

The Wildcats quickly jumped on the board twice in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.

Freshman Ara Nazarian was the first to find the back of the net at 2:18, jamming home a loose puck in the crease. Junior Jamie Hill originally received credit for the goal before being replay showed it bouncing past Merrimack sophomore Collin Delia off the Malden Catholic product's stick.

"He's a good little player and a good kid," Umile said of Nazarian, who hails from nearby Boxford, Mass. "He's well respected, and he got the first goal here. We like him a lot as a player."

Sophomore Richard Boyd doubled the Wildcats' lead with his fourth goal of the season just 18 seconds later. Freshman Marcus Vela's primary assist marked the first point of his UNH career, a feat Nazarian achieved on the first goal.

The Warriors cut the score to 2-1, where the score stayed through the end of the first period, at 7:21. Senior Brian Christie followed up his own shot with a rebound goal at the right side of UNH sophomore goaltender Adam Clark's crease.

The visitors did not waste much time taking a two-goal lead back in the second period as sophomore Andrew Poturalski took a nifty feed from junior linemate Tyler Kelleher on a power play at the 49-second mark.

"All three of us work hard together and love playing with each other," Poturalski said. "I think it's translated the past couple weeks. We both move the puck well and see each other out there, so things are clicking right now."

Poturalski's goal was the first Merrimack's penalty kill allowed all season as it entered the night a perfect 18-for-18 over the first five games of the season.

Poturalski scored his second goal of the night on the power play, fifth of the season and 12th point, blasting home a shot from the right circle off a pass from freshman defenseman Matt Dawson 2:38 into the third period.

"They're real clever," Umile said of Poturalski's line with Kelleher and senior assistant captain Dan Correale. "They can see each other and they're very dangerous on the ice. We're just trying to get them better defensively, but they can do a lot of good things offensively."

Merrimack cut back to within two goals at 11:16 as sophomore Brett Seney found classmate Mathieu Tibbet rushing down the slot. Tibbet wound up and fired his third goal of the season between Clark's legs, one of just two pucks that eluded him in a 28-save victory.

Delia was not tested as often as he was in Friday's 4-3 win over Boston University and finished the night with just 16 saves.

Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy was quick to point out the team's slow start, which didn't help the sophomore goaltender.

"(UNH) played a really good road game, capitalized on their chances," Dennehy said. "I didn't think we were ready to play ― some goals that we usually don't give up. We hit three crossbars, missed a breakaway, had a goal called back. But we don't want to get into that type of game, a shootout."