Sunday, October 23, 2016

Colorado College Beats UNH for First Time Since '97

Freshman Patrick Grasso
4th Goal in 4 Games
Junior Jason Salvaggio
Short-Handed Goal
Junior Michael McNicholas
1st Goal of 2016-17

[Durham, NH]-- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats hockey team fell to the Colorado College Tigers on Saturday night by a score of 4-3. Led by their special teams unit and that of freshman right-winger Nick Halloran, who scored two power-play goals, the Tigers upended the Wildcats for the first time in 19 years. The last time they beat the Wildcats was on March 21, 1997. This was also the first time they won in Durham since January 4th, 1986. 

The Wildcats (1-3) were returning home after a big, come-from-behind win against Clarkson last Saturday in New York. The underlying theme early in the season still exists. UNH has been falling behind early and playing catch-up hockey which is hard at this level. The Wildcats got a quick taste of that once again in this one.

At the start of the first period, the Wildcats went on the power-play and had multiple chances that goalie Derek Shatzer saved, but quickly the tide turned when a 2-on-1 broke out and sophomore Gregg Burmaster carried the puck down the left side of the ice and wristed one over Danny Tirone's stick and glove to make it 1-0.

"We have to get the first one, no more excuses," junior Jason Salvaggio said. 

The Tigers (2-4) pounced not once, but twice on shorthanded opportunities and converted only three minutes later to make it 2-0. Senior captain Sam Rothstein followed Burmaster's suit by carrying the puck down the right side of the ice, misdirecting the Wildcat defense, and fired a wrist shot from the top right circle past Tirone's glove. It went from promising to sketchy very quickly at the Whittemore Center. 

"Two short handers. Two shots. We are getting tired of that show and we did not convert on the power play," head coach Dick Umile said. 

One bright spot was freshman Patrick Grasso registering his fourth goal of the season at 15:59 of the first period. Grasso rang the door bell at the near side of Shatzer and poked in a juicy rebound to cut the lead in half. At the beginning of the game, Umile noted that Grasso had been stepping up and it is great to see. The Whit had regained the atmosphere and the comeback 'Cats were refueling for an exciting second period. 

Yet, the Tigers answered quickly to start the second period and stalled the positive energy once again. Halloran finally helped a struggling power play convert to make it 3-1 when he wristed one over Tirone's glove and roofed it top shelf where the cookies are. 

Adversity looked the Wildcats right in the face again, but two goals in the second period made the Whit deafening for the first time in a while. Salvaggio gave the Tigers a taste of their own medicine when he converted on a shorthanded goal for his first of the season. Waiting patiently down the left side he retrieved a pass from Dylan Maller and Anthony Wyse and shot it past Shatzer. 

"Everyone was all aboard and ready to take the lead. [We] had the momentum. Our powerplay needs a dirty goal or something to get us going," Salvaggio said. 

Popping back into the lineup for the first time this season, junior forward Michael McNicholas received a tape-to-tape pass from Maller through traffic and shot past Shatzer from the far circle to knot it up 3-3. The Whit was loud and ready for the third period. 

"We had some momentum for sure. We showed some strides today, but we came out weak in the first and could not bury it down in the third. We have to get better at practice especially with conference games coming next week," McNicholas said. 

Four minutes into the third, the Wildcats could not contain themselves and made a bad penalty that lead to the second power play goal by the Tigers. Halloran recorded his second of the game when he waited at the near side circle and took a trip upstairs shooting one over Tirone's blocker. It was 4-3 and the Tigers never looked back. 

The Wildcats ended up going 0-7 on the powerplay and it hurt them in this one. They now fall 0-2 at home on the young season. 

"This is getting old for us. No excuses. The game was on the line with 20 minutes left and we did not get it done. I was really disappointed with the third period. We got outplayed in the third, no excuses. Playing from behind, it is pathetic to be quite honest with you," Umile said. 

Check out the highlights here, courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

The Wildcats will head on the road Friday, Oct. 28th to take on Massachusetts and then return home Saturday, Oct. 29th to take on Merrimack.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hockey East Honors Kelleher, Grasso & Cleland

Tyler Kelleher
Hockey East Player of the Week
Patrick Grasso
Hockey East Weekly Top Performer
Matias Cleland
Hockey East Weekly Top Performer

In it's weekly press release, Hockey East honored UNH's Tyler Kelleher, Patrick Grasso, and Matias Cleland for their performance last weekend at St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University. After losing to 15th-ranked St. Lawrence 6-2 on Friday night, the Wildcats bounced back with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Clarkson Golden Knights on Saturday. The offensive production of seniors Kelleher and Cleland and freshman Grasso was instrumental in the turnaround.

Hockey East/Warrior Player of the Week - Tyler Kelleher

Tyler Kelleher entered his final season as a member of the UNH Century Club. In his first three seasons, Tyler compiled 33 goals and 71 assists. For his efforts over the weekend in upstate New York, Hockey East named Kelleher the Warrior Player of the Week.

On Friday night in Canton, New York, Kelleher scored his first goal of the 2016-17 season in the third period on a 5-on-3 power play against the St. Lawrence Saints. Freshman winger Patrick Grasso passed the puck behind the net to sophomore Ara Nazarian who touch-passed it out to Kelleher in the mid-slot. Kelleher blasted a 3/4 slapshot for the Wildcats' second goal of the game.

On Saturday in Potsdam, New York, Kelleher scored the game-winning goal late in the third period. UNH battled back from 2-0 deficit against Clarkson to tie the game 3-3 on a goal by Grasso. With less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, junior Jason Salvaggio stole the puck, skated around a Clarkson defender, and sent a perfect cross-slot pass to Kelleher crashing the net. He converted the one-timer to give UNH a 4-3 lead.

With 40 seconds remaining and the Clarkson net empty, senior defenseman Matias Cleland blocked a shot on goal. Kelleher gathered the loose puck at the half-wall, flicked a 150-foot wrist shot into the center of the net, and sealed UNH's first win of the season. Kelleher also assisted on the Wildcats' first and second goals, fired 6 shots on goal, and blocked a shot. Here are the video highlights of Kelleher's three goals:

Hockey East Weekly Top Performer - Patrick Grasso

Just three games into his freshman season, Patrick Grasso has become an offensive threat. In addition to playing right wing on the all-freshman, third line with Liam Blackburn and Brendan van Riemsdyk, Grasso plays right wing on UNH's first power play unit. On the strength of two power play goals plus and an even strength tally in two weekend games, Patrick Grasso was named a Hockey East Weekly Top Performer.

Grasso scored his first NCAA goal on Friday against St. Lawrence. With 7:16 left in the second period and the Wildcats trailing 3-0, Grasso converted on a 5-on-3 power play. While Grasso was parked to the right of the St. Lawrence goalie, Matias Cleland fed him a perfect pass and Grasso one-timed the puck into the back of the net. Near the end of the game, Grasso also assisted on Tyler Kelleher's power play goal.

On Saturday night, UNH trailed Clarkson 2-0 midway through the first period. With 8 minutes left in the period and the Wildcats on the power play, Cleland passed to Kelleher who passed down to Grasso near the boards on the goal line. Patrick skated straight toward the goalie and stuffed it between his pads. After UNH fell behind 3-2, Grasso scored the critical game-tying goal with 4 minutes left in the second period. Center Ara Nazarian won a faceoff back to Grasso at the top of the faceoff circle to the right of the Clarkson goalie. Grasso snapped a wrist shot into the back of the net for his third goal of the weekend.


Patrick Grasso is the first UNH freshman since All-American Sean Collins to score 3 goals in his first 3 games. In the 2001-02 season, Collins scored a goal in each of the first 4 games. Collins went on to score a remarkable total of 77 goals and 96 assists in his four seasons at UNH. He is currently tied for 10th among all-time UNH scorers.

Here are the video highlights of all Grasso's goals:

Hockey East Weekly Top Performer - Matias Cleland

In his senior season at UNH, Matias Cleland is the team's anchor. The captain is the starting left defenseman, point person on UNH's first power play unit, and the backbone of the first penalty kill unit. In the St. Lawrence and Clarkson games, Cleland dished out a total of 3 assists, fired 4 shots on goal, blocked 4 shots, and posted a +/- rating of +1. Like his young teammate Patrick Grasso, Cleland was named a Hockey East Weekly Top Performer.

The following video of Patrick Grasso's first NCAA goal shows how important Cleland is to the UNH power play. It shows him keeping the puck in the zone, taking shots on goal, and feeding passes to his teammates.

Kelleher, Grasso, Cleland and the rest of the UNH team will face Colorado College on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center in Durham. Puck drop is at 7:00.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

UNH Commits Update: October-20-2016

Goalie Mike Robinson
First USHL Win

Player Spotlight - Mike Robinson

UNH's "Goalie of the Future", Mike Robinson, secured his first victory in the United States Hockey League in his first appearance last Friday. The Dubuque Fighting Saints traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota hoping to end a three-game losing streak. The 6'3", 196 lbs. Robinson, who was drafted by Dubuque in the 2nd Round of the 2016 USHL Entry Draft (30th overall pick), made a number of pivotal saves as the Fighting Saints downed the Sioux Falls Stampede 5-3.

One of Robinson's 21 saves was spectacular. With 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd period and Sioux Falls ahead 3-2, Austin Albrecht (UMass Amherst commit) swooped across the low slot and Robinson tracked him preventing a shot on goal. Albrecht wristed the puck toward the goal and Jason O'Neill, another UNH Commit, gathered the puck and snapped a shot on goal. Robinson sprawled and made the save with the back of his left leg, then smothered the puck with his glove. Here's a video of what the USHL twitter account called a "save of the year candidate".

Eventually, the Fighting Saints tied the score and went ahead by a goal. In the last half-minute of regulation, Robinson came up big again making a save on a point-blank shot then knocked the loose puck away. Here's the video highlight:

Mike Robinson was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 3rd Round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He has already signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH and is on track to enroll next Fall.

2016-17 Statistics

The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH. ~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 9 1 0 1 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 13 0 4 4 0
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 9 2 5 7 2
Eric MacAdams  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 7 4 4 8 10
James Miller  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 6 0 1 1 6
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 3.00 .875
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 5 0 0 0 42
Jason O'Neill  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 7 4 2 6 0
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 1 0 1 1 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 4 0 0 0 2
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 13 5 10 15 2
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep - - - - -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ Two UNH commits - Jason O'Neill and Eric MacAdams - play on the same line for the Sioux Falls Stampede and they are the team's 2nd and 3rd leading scorers. MacAdams' 4 goals and 8 points puts him in a tie for 4th and a tie for 6th in the USHL respectively. O'Neill has also scored 4 goals in just 7 games and is tied for 4th in USHL goal-scoring.

~ 2017 UNH Commit Charlie Kelleher is off to a fast start in his first 9 games in the USHL. He has tallied 2 goals and 5 assists and is tied for 4th in USHL assists and tied for 7th in scoring.

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ 2018 or '19 commit Lucas Bahn, has continued to score at a point-a-game pace for the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team in the USPHL. The defenseman has scored 5 goals and 10 assists in 13 games. He is currently the 5th leading scorer in the USPHL 18U League and tied for 2nd in assists.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

UNH Finds the Win Column for the First Time

Freshman Patrick Grasso
Tallies 2 Goals
Senior Tyler Kelleher
GWG + Empty Netter

It was not easy in upstate New York this past weekend, but the University of New Hampshire hockey team was resilient and upended Clarkson 5-3 on Saturday night. Combined with the loss to St. Lawrence on Friday night, UNH went 1-1 on the weekend trip and improved their record to 1-2 on the year.

Going into the matchup, the Wildcats had been looking to score goals and were outscored 11-3 through two games. After falling down 2-0 early, it looked like the team was going in the wrong direction once again. Yet, the 'Cats' comeback showed what the team can do with their backs against the wall.

Just 94 seconds into the game, Clarkson's Troy Joseph received a tape-to-tape pass from Aaron Thow and skated down the right wing before he lifted one off the far post past junior goalie Danny Tirone.

It got worse for UNH as the Golden Knights struck gold with under 10 minutes left in the first period. Sophomore Juho Jokiharju retrieved a loose puck in Wildcat territory raced to the slot and wristed one past Tirone five hole to make it 2-0.

At this juncture in the game, it did not look good for the Wildcats. The team needed a boost and they got it from freshman Patrick Grasso. Grasso, who scored his first NCAA goal on Friday night, capitalized on the power-play by poking one in at the crease past Jake Kielly. It is a young season for the 'Cats with young talent, but players such as Grasso stepping up and getting a feel for college hockey is great to see.

The night got better as senior defenseman Dylan Maller recorded his first goal as a Wildcat to tie the game 2-2. Maller took a shot from the top of the point and flung it through traffic and past Kielly. Momentum was shifting and for the first time all season, the 'Cats were finishing golden opportunities.

Then adversity crept back onto the ice as the Golden Knights and Jokiharju responded just 70 seconds later. At 10:59 in the second, Jokiharju received a beautiful puck off the boards behind the net then swung around at the near side circle and wristed one blocker side on Tirone.

Grasso again picked up the slack, with the 2nd period coming to a close, by scoring his second of the game. Winning the faceoff, fellow freshman Liam Blackburn glided one to Grasso who shot top shelf on the blocker side of Kielly and converted making it 3-3. That was Blackburn's first collegiate point.

With the game tied, UNH and Clarkson battled throughout the most of the the third period with neither team scoring. In the end, senior Tyler Kelleher would not let the team's record fall to 0-3. With a 1:39 remaining in regulation and the Wildcats and Golden Knights smelling over-time, Kelleher took the Knights' sword and slayed the beast. Swiftly skating down the far right wing, Jason Salvaggio connected across the crease on a one-timer that Kelleher tucked in the net. It was an incredible play that brought the 'Cats identity back to the ice.

Kelleher sniped a 150-foot empty netter at 19:28 and the Wildcats won 5-3. Tirone stopped 29 pucks and both Kelleher and Grasso had a pair of goals to highlight the night.

It is a young season, but the young Wildcat team needed this one. A come-from-behind win made it that much sweeter.

Check out the highlights here:

The Wildcats return home to take on Colorado College next Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 14, 2016

UNH Overpowered by #15 St. Lawrence 6-2

Freshman Patrick Grasso
Scores 1st NCAA Goal

Midweek, the UNH Wildcats traveled to northern New York for weekend games against ECAC mainstays St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University. Tonight, they skated into Appleton Arena in Canton to face nationally-ranked St. Lawrence. The 15th ranked Skating Saints dominated all three periods, outshot UNH 40-18, and won 6-2.

The one positive is that UNH converted on two 5-on-3 power plays - something they were unable to do against Bentley University last Saturday. The first came with 7:16 left in the second period and the Wildcats trailing 3-0. Freshman Patrick Grasso was parked to the right of St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton. Captain Matias Cleland fed him a perfect pass and Grasso one-timed the puck into the back of the net. Here's a video clip of what may be the first of many goals for Grasso:

Although the game was well out of reach late in the final period, UNH got another 5-on-3 opportunity and succeeded. Patrick Grasso passed the puck behind the net to sophomore Ara Nazarian who touch-passed it out to Tyler Kelleher in the mid-slot. Kelleher blasted a 3/4 slapshot for the Wildcats' second goal.

For all the details of the 6-2 loss at St. Lawrence, here's a link to the article on

UNH will search for it's first win of the 2016-17 season tomorrow night at Clarkson University.

Monday, October 10, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: Season Opening Loss to Bentley

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

For the second consecutive season, The UNH Men's Hockey Blog will include the "Captain's Corner" feature. Beginning with this article, I will periodically interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the team's performance in recent games.

In the series of 15 Captain's Corner articles last season, Captain Collin MacDonald provided insight into the 2015-16 team's ups and downs and the progress of individual players. After his graduation last spring, Collin went on to sign a professional contract with the Toledo Walleyes of the East Coast Hockey League. The Walleyes are an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Bentley Game

On Saturday night, the 2016-17 UNH hockey team opened the regular season with a loss to the Bentley University Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. As Ben Nawn pointed out in his game report for The UNH Men's Hockey Blog, it was the second time that the two Division I programs had played each other. Last season, UNH defeated Bentley 5-4 at the end of November.

Bentley, and a number of other Atlantic Hockey Conference schools such as American International College and Sacred Heart University, are upgrading their hockey programs in an effort to attract more talented hockey players. After playing for years at a municipal arena 10 minutes from campus, Bentley University is building a new, on campus arena due to open in 2018.

Bentley has already attracted some skilled recruits such as freshman Jonathan Desbiens. He was a teammate of UNH freshman Liam Blackburn last season with the West Kelowna Warriors. They were West Kelowna's #1 and #3 scorers and the Warriors won the BCHL Championship and the RBC Cup. On Saturday, Desbiens scored Bentley's fourth goal just seconds into the third period.

The UNH loss was frustrating for a number of reasons. The Wildcats outshot Bentley 12-0 over the first 11 and 1/2 minutes of the game. Bentley's first goal came a minute later on only their second shot on goal. UNH had a 5-on-3 power play in each period and did not score. After falling behind 2-0, they appeared to recapture the momentum with 3:19 remaining in the second period on a goal by sophomore Ara Nazarian. However, Bentley answered with their third goal just 36 seconds later. Desbiens' goal sealed the deal in the final stanza.

Here are some video clips of the post-game press conference courtesy of UNH Wildcats Productions:

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the opening game of the season against Bentley University.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): In the news conference after the 5-1 loss to Bentley University, you and Coach Umile talked about two major themes: missed opportunities to score and defensive mistakes that lead to goals. In each period, UNH had a 5-on-3 power play opportunity but did not score. What do the power play units need to do to improve and find the back of the net more often?

Matias Cleland: We have some skilled players on both units obviously and that can lead to guys not shooting the puck as much as they need to. I think we can look to shoot the puck more and get bodies to the net. That being said, we had a lot of shots blocked on the power play on Saturday night. We need to get pucks through traffic and give our guys down low a chance to get second opportunities. This will help our power play a lot.

Mike Lowry: Bentley's first, third and fourth scoring plays involved them controlling the puck below the UNH goal line. What were the defensive mistakes that Bentley capitalized on and what does the team need to do to avoid these mistakes in the future?

Matias Cleland: They did a good job controlling the puck down below the goal line but they found open guys in front. That was the issue with the goals they scored. We need to execute our defensive zone and do our individual jobs. We felt like leaving guys open was a big reason why they were able to score goals on us. If we can fix this, we will be a tough team to score against.

Lowry: Were there team and individual efforts that stood out as positives in your mind?

Cleland: I thought Frankie Cefalu had a great game. He played strong and won the majority of his 1v1 battles which gave him the chance to make plays. He needs to continue playing the way he is.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

UNH Falls to Bentley 5-1 in Regular Season Opener

UNH Sophomore Ara Nazarian
Scores 1st Goal of Season

[Durham, N.H.] -- October brings change amongst the leaves here in the state of New Hampshire as well as the beginning of the college hockey season. One thing that did not change this time around was the sloppy play of The University of New Hampshire hockey team. The Wildcats began their 2016-2017 regular season with a loss to the Bentley Falcons 5-1 on Saturday night.

In only their second meeting of all-time, Bentley University got revenge after losing 5-4 last season.

Late in the first period, the Falcon's flew out of the nest after freshman Connor Brassard received a beautiful backhand pass from captain Max French. Brassard raced towards the slot and wristed one glove side of goaltender Danny Tirone for his first collegiate goal to make it 1-0 Bentley.

Two minutes later, Alexey Solovyev smashed a quick one-timer past Tirone to thrust the Falcons out to a 2-0 lead. French who had 47 points last year was able to win the faceoff battle on this one and placed the puck on a platter for Solovyev.

Coach Dick Umile, who is at the helm in his 27th season, was blunt in the press conference following the game saying:
"Needless to say, very disappointed. We had the opportunities and scoring opportunities, but the 5-on-3 opportunities as well. We can't score or hit the net."
The second period did not bode well for the Wildcats either. They had multiple power-play opportunities, but could not execute. The Falcons stood strong defensively with 14 blocked shots and Junior goaltender Jayson Argue made 32 saves.

Referring to the blocked shots and missed opportunities on the power-play Umile said, "Those kill ya."

Midway through the second period, a small fire erupted in the UNH equipment room causing the fire alarm to go off at the Whittemore Center. All the fans quickly exited the area pausing the game for 15 minutes. Somehow, the unexpected break rejuvenated the Wildcats who finally scored late in the second period.

Sophomore goaltender Ara Nazarian chased towards a dribbling puck off the far side boards and wristed one past Argue to make it 2-1. It seemed the Bentley lead was just a false alarm and the Wildcats were ready to claw their way back.

Under a minute later, Dino Balsamo collected a sloppy Wildcat turnover and used his backhander to his advantage sneaking one past Danny Tirone to make it 3-1. This most certainly killed the 'Cats.

"That hurt," said Umile.

"They capitalized on our mistakes so hats off to them on that, but we have to limit those," said senior captain Matias Cleland.

The main story though was the Wildcats' failure to capitalize on the 5-on-3 power play opportunities. UNH held a two-man advantage three times - once in each period. The Wildcats went 0-6 on the power play and it proved to change the game.

The Wildcats entered the third period trailing by only two goals and looking to get back into the game. They were out-shooting Bentley 24-12. However, only :14 seconds in, Bentley struck again. Kyle Schmidt, who is third all-time in assists at Bentley, found a wide open Johnathan Desbiens waiting to pull the trigger. He did and Bentley lead 4-1. The Falcons flew even further away with a short-hand, empty-netter late in the third to seal the victory.

Although disappointed in the lack of execution, Coach Umile noted that the season just started, but changes need to happen quickly:

"We have a long road trip and a lot of work to do."

The Wildcats head on the road to take on ECAC opponent #16 St. Lawrence and Clarkson next weekend.

You can take a look at the highlights, brought to you by UNH Athletics, below:

Box Score

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