Inside Report: Here come the River Hawks

DURHAM, NH — The University of New Hampshire men’s ice hockey team, which was seeking its best third straight win of a season last Sunday afternoon in Amherst, Massachusetts, ran into early trouble.

Massachusetts in 17th place was all over the Wildcats to start the game. David FessenUNH’s 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior goalie helped take care of it.

“It was enormous in the first third,” said the second defender Alex Gagne. “He really bailed us out with a couple of saves.”

Fessenden stopped every 13 shots he saw in the first half and had 27 saves for the game, and the Wildcats not only clinched that third straight win but their second straight win over a Hockey East team.

UNH follows up this weekend with a similar challenge: against a ranked rival from Hockey East.

The Wildcats play Friday night at 7:15 p.m. at No. 19U Mass Lowell. The teams will face off again on Saturday night at 7pm at the Whittemore Center.

Saturday’s game concludes with a doubles game of Stick it to Stigma for the Wildcat hockey programs.

The UNH women’s hockey team has traditionally played a Stick it to Stigma game to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention, and this year the men are joining the campaign.

The Wildcat women open the doubleheader with a free entry game against Boston University at 2 p.m. The women begin the weekend with a game Friday at 4 p.m. against No. 15 Boston College, also at the Whitt.

Saturday’s Stick it to Stigma games are jointly hosted by local charities, Connor’s Club Foundation and The Benny Fund. Jersey raffles, photo opportunities, information desks and youth hockey games during breaks are among the featured activities.

Tickets for UNH hockey can be purchased at UNHWildcats.com/Tickets or by calling the ticket office at (603) 862-4000.

Fessenden has been in goal in each of the last three wins with 35 saves and his first UNH shutout in the 2-0 win over No. 11 Providence, 23 saves in the 4-1 win over Sacred Heart and the UMass win.

“I thought he made all the saves he needed to make and then maybe a few he shouldn’t have made,” said the UNH coach Mike Suza. “I’m thinking of one from last night where they had a game at the back door and he dived over the crease and the game stayed 0-0.”

Souza also likes the way the Wildcats defended from Fessenden.

“If you go to Providence, Sacred Heart and UMass, I thought we did a good job managing the middle of the rink and keeping stuff on the outside,” Souza said. “And when asked about it, David responds great.”

Fessenden, from Parker, Colorado, joined the Wildcats last season after two years at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He has benefited this season from working off-season with UNH’s strength and conditioning coach, Souza said Will Morey.

Fessenden has reduced his goals against average to 2.53 goals per game and recently increased his save percentage to 0.914.

The Wildcats are through their last 10 games of the season and three of the next four are playing the River Hawks. They are 7-16-1 overall and 2-11-1 in Hockey East.

UMass Lowell is 12-9-1 overall and 6-5-1 in Hockey East and coming off a split in Maine, wins 2-1 and loses 5-3.

Goaltender Gustavs Davis Grigals is a new addition to the River Hawks after four seasons with Alaska Fairbanks and has 1.96 goals against average and 0.929 saving percent.

Cy LeClerc, a freshman forward from Brentwood, NH, continues to lead the Wildcats in scoring. He had the first goal against UMass last week and has scored in each of their last three wins and has 11 goals and six assists for 17 points for the season.

His 11 goals ranks second in Hockey East and first among freshmen.

Novice defender Damien Carfagna and sophomore year forward will margel had assists on goal by LeClerc.

Margel took Junior’s place Nick Cafarelli aligned with LeClerc and a sophomore Liam Devlin. Cafarelli was injured late in training the day before the UMass game and Souza said during a media conference on Wednesday that he would be out for the season. Cafarelli had his best season as a wildcat with three goals and eight assists for 11 points.

student in the first year Kristaps Skrastins scored his second goal of the season for the game winners against UMass, assisted by a freshman Stiven Sardarian.

Gagne scored an empty net goal to end the goal.

UNH have next weekend off and play Merrimack at home on Friday 3rd February and UMass Lowell on Saturday 4th February.

Women’s Ice Hockey

The women are 8-16-0 overall and 6-11-0 in Hockey East and also have 10 games left in the season.

Boston College brings a 14-8-1 overall record to the Whitt on Friday. UNH lost 3-1 at BC on Nov. 18 and put the Eagles into overtime, falling 3-2 the next day.

The Wildcats and BU split two games in October. The Terriers won 2-0 at the Whitt on October 14. The next day, second striker Kira Juodikis scored her second goal of the game in OT to lead UNH to a 3–2 win.

The Wildcats are eighth in Hockey East, two points behind BU in seventh.

PhD student Emily Pinto forward leads UNH with six goals and 13 assists for 19 points. Juodikis is at 9-7-16.

Senior goalie Nicky Harnett has 2.23 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage.

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