Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wildcats 5, Badgers 1

With goals from van Riemsdyk, Paul Thompson, Sislo, Collins and LeBlanc the University of New Hampshire Men's Hockey Team has kicked off its season with a 'W' for who knows how many years? I do.

The faithful, those who are so assured of victory that they leave before the end of the game, missed a highlight-reel goal from Peter LeBlanc making it 5-1. But let's start from the beginning.

I must say - I was worried. Much of the first period saw a very tentative Wildcat club that was weak on the puck eventually leading to the first goal of the game, a nice three pass tic-tac-toe play by Wisconsin where freshman defenseman, Mike Beck, failed to neutralize the Wisconsin forward with a body play allowing the feed to an uncovered Badger to Foster's left across the crease - 1-0 Badgers.

But that early second period goal would be the first and last Badger offense of the night. The Wildcats seemed to find their groove through the middle of the penalty-laden, official-mismanaged match. And I don't say this lightly or idly. I'm sure that the officiating squad is unhappy with their performance for the first half of the game where they committed numerous, onerous errors that were plain to see and for which they took an inordinate amount of time to process and apologize for. But the game plodded along regardless and our 'Cats put five unanswered goals on the board making the Badgers look almost entirely outmatched.

Hold up. Let's backtrack and layout the Wildcat line-up. Starting the game was the line of:

Jerry Pollastrone - Peter LeBlanc - Bobby Butler
James van Riemsdyk - Phil DeSimone - Mike Sislo
Danny Dries - Thomas Fortney - Greg Collins
Steve Moses - Alan Thompson - Paul Thompson

Defensive pairings

Fritsch - Charlebois
Kapstad - Kessel
Krates - Beck

In net, Brian Foster, of course.

So, with the Badgers on the board the 'Cats would get a(nother) powerplay opportunity. This time Blake Kessel (Wisconsin native who I believe never came off the ice all night and played a very good game) would feed the puck to Kapstad on his left who hammered a shot wide right of the Wisconsin netminder who lazed in said net while the puck caromed with seemingly magnetic properties to a wide open James van Riemsdyk who, not believing the wide open net still in front of him, practically paused to scratch his head and wonder before putting forth the easy game-tying goal and kicking off the scoring for the 2008-2009 season.

They wouldn't waste much time getting back on the board and taking the first lead of the season just forty seconds later when Paul Thompson would get a nice feed from linemates Alan Thompson and Steve Moses going top shelf, 2-1 'Cats!

So, blah-blah-blah, more penalties... lots more penalties... and Mike Sislo (easily the most improved Wildcat this year) just off the bench with a Badger powerplay expiring, collects the puck on the half-boards from another lazy Wisco netminder play and fires it into the empty net to close the second period, 3-1.

Third period, more 'Cats.

Danny Dries would come to life, in the midst of a penalty parade (four for eight minutes) that is sure to cost him in next week's practices, with some nifty dangling leaving the puck for first Captain, Greg Collins and then Peter LeBlanc who would both find the high-strength polyester nylon with lasers to the top shelf.

And through it all Brian Foster was sharp as a diamond-honed fishing hook snagging pucks and handling rebounds with ease, turning aside 30 of 31 on the night.

I can't stress how frighteningly skilled and speedy this team is - scary. If the coaches can get them settled down and playing tougher on the puck then I'll be one happy Wildcat fan.

Go 'Cats!


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