Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UNH Scores Plenty; Gives Up More (to Harvard)

BOSTON, MA - When the 2011-12 season began, it took UNH seven periods to score their first goal. They've largely solved the problem of putting the puck in the net. Tonight, UNH flew out of the gate at the Bright Arena and scored 4 goals in 12 minutes against Harvard (3-3-1).

The offensive character of this UNH team is somewhat different than in recent years. So far, they have not relied on a high-scoring first line (e.g., Thompson-DeSimone-Sislo) and one offensively gifted defenseman (e.g., Blake Kessel) to put up the majority of points. All four forward lines in tonight's game had one or more players who have scored at least 3 goals this season. With Senior Stevie Moses playing on the third line tonight, the leading goal scorer on Lines #1 through #3 were Nick Sorkin (5 goals), John Henrion (4 goals), and Stevie Moses (6 goals), respectively. With both Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas each scoring two goals tonight, the first and second lines have an additional 4 goal scorer. The scoring across the lines has been balanced and all four lines have played regular shifts. This is another departure from past seasons when it was not uncommon to see little of the fourth line in the final period. This year's defensive corp has also shown balanced scoring. Connor Hardowa, Damon Kipp, Eric Knodel, and Trevor van Riemsdyk have 5, 5, 4, and 6 points, respectively.

Now, the obvious challenge for UNH is to find ways to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard. When UNH lead a talented Harvard team 4-0 after the first period and 5-2 sixteen minutes into the second period, they needed to play tight and disciplined defense in their own end. That didn't happen. Harvard's goals did not come on odd-man rushes. The problem was what was happening, or not happening, directly in front of Matt Di Girolamo. Three of the goals resulted from UNH players not clearing the puck away from the front of the net and a Harvard player burying a point-blank shot past Di Girolamo. Another goal came when a Harvard player, positioned in front of Di Girolamo, tipped in a shot from the top of the circle. The sixth Harvard goal came on a slap shot from the point with at least three players screening Di Girolamo. This goal was essentially the game winner since the 7th Harvard goal was an empty net goal and the 6th UNH goal came on a scrum around the Harvard net with one second left in the game.

With the exception of Brett Kostolansky, the UNH defensemen are big. They range in height from 6'1" to 6'6" and weigh between 185 and 225 pounds. In addition, three of the centers - Nick Sorkin (6'3"), Kevin Burke (6'3"), and Jeff Silengo (6'1") - are tall guys with long arms. Together, they have the potential to keep the puck and opposing forwards away from in front of the net at most key junctures in the game. Granted, the Harvard team UNH played tonight is talented with 8 players who have been drafted by NHL teams. However, UNH will face several talented teams during the remainder of the season and they need to find ways to tighten up on defense, particulary when they have jumped out to 3 or 4 goal leads.


~ Freshman Grayson Downing scored two goals on four shots and he added two assists. Downing came to UNH as a heralded scorer from the British Columbia Hockey League. With 4 goals and 6 assists over the first 12 games, he is the leading scorer among the freshmen and tied for second in scoring on the team.

~ Freshman Trevor van Riemsdyk scored his second NCAA goal on a rising wrist shot from the left point with 8:04 remaining in the first period. He added an assist on Kevin Goumas's short-handed goal in the second period. Overall, his +/- rating was +3. Those are the numbers. What didn't show up on the score sheet was an amazing individual rush that happened with about 3 minutes left in the second period. TvR gathered the puck in the UNH end, skated around two consecutive players in the neutral zone, and sent a wrist shot on goal. I was standing near an NHL scout at the time and I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he shook his head while smiling.

Next up, an opportunity to see a Division 1 hockey program probably playing in its final season - The University of Alabama - Huntsville. Gametime 7:00, Saturday, November 26th at the Whittemore Center.


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