Meredin, NH – In a battle between the two premier New Hampshire hockey programs, No. 6 Exeter traveled to face the defending Elite Eight champion Kimball Union. The Wildcats came away with the 3-0 win.
Kimball Union started the game with Andriak Armstrong, Thomas Samuelsen (UCONN), Logan Cash (UVM), Jordan Harris (Northeastern) and Bryce Dolan (Holy Cross). Those five players would come to control the game for the Wildcats, starting their dominance with a goal eight minutes into the game. Harris kept a puck in the zone and fed it to Samuelsen along the boards. Samuelsen fed the puck to Cash, who threw a low-wrister on net. The shot bounced off Exeter goaltender Ryan Welch and right to Armstrong, who knocked it home for the 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later the Wildcats struck again thanks to a top-corner snipe from Harris at the top of the circles. On the play, Arlo Merritt gained the zone, pulled up at top of the circles and fired a shot that was kicked out to Harris at the opposite side of the ice. The Wildcats controlled the rest of the period, but the score stayed at 2-0 at the end of the first.
In the start of the second period, Exeter played hard and got pucks in deep. But Kimball Union didn’t allow many shots on goal, despite having one of their top defensemen, Christian Felton, out with a jaw injury. Kyle Penney moved back to take his spot.
“I was really impressed with Penney’s play on defense tonight. He has been a great defensive forward for us all season, so with Felton out we moved him back and he was excellent. He got the game puck for us,” Kimball Union coach Tim Whitehead said.
The teams entered the third with Kimball Union holding onto a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats had several chances to score, including a couple of breakaways and odd-man rushes, but failed to solve Welch. Harris had the best chance of the frame when he broke free at the red line for a breakaway, beat Welch with a deke but just missed over the crossbar.
“I was happy with the way we played, particularly defensively,” Whitehead said. “We had played Exeter earlier in the season. We knew what they were capable of, so we just tried to play hard, keep it simple and take away their scoring chances. Our seniors are a special group and I thought our defense was particularly strong tonight, including our goaltending.”
With 1:16 left and on an offensive-zone faceoff, Exeter head coach Dana Barbin pulled Welch. Exeter almost scored off the draw on a wraparound, but Kimball Union netminder Sean Dynan held the post. The Wildcats responded with an empty-net goal to seal the win.
“If there is a team in prep who can beat them, then I’m glad I haven’t had to play them. They are a great team. I didn’t think we play our best, but I think it was because KUA doesn’t let you play your best. They were on us every time we touched the puck, they were stronger then us and their defense is tough,” Barbin said.
“I love this team so it’s a tough way to end it. These guys gave it their all every game this season.”