Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brown Out The Whitt

DURHAM, NH - Brown University goalie Marco De Filippo faced 41 shots on goal. He made 39 saves - several were spectacular.

For two periods, UNH goalie Matt Di Girolamo seemed to be fighting the routine saves. On Brown's second and third goals, he didn't succeed. Midway through the second period, UNH was already in a 3-0 hole. With some high-energy offensive play in the third period, UNH managed to make it a 3-2 contest. But in the end, Brown defeated UNH 5-2, including an empty net goal.

A cornerstone of the UNH teams that have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for 10 consecutive years has been outstanding goaltending. Michael Ayers, Jeff Pietrasiak, Kevin Regan, Brian Foster, and last season, Matt Di Girolamo. Without them making the routine and spectacular saves, UNH would not have been so successful.

I recently stumbled across a 2002 interview with legendary goalie coach Mike Geragosian. He has been the "volunteer" goalie coach for Boston University since 1999. In the article, Geragosian pointed out that a key part of his job is to study video of the opposing goalies to search for any vulnerabilities.

Assuming the Brown University coaching staff did this kind of homework, they may have noticed that Di Girolamo seems to be having difficulty with shots to his right, blocker side. On the second goal tonight, the shot went over Di Girolamo's right shoulder. He didn't lift his blocker up quick enough and because of his stature, there was plenty of space above his shoulder and under the crossbar. Another example is the flukey, first goal that BU scored against UNH in their second meeting of the season. On that occasion, Di Girolamo attempted to stand tall with his blocker but the puck snuck past him from a nearly impossible angle.

Throughout last season, Coach Umile made a point of giving credit to Di Girolamo's solid, consistent play in the net. It must have been a tough decision to pull him after the second period tonight. Freshman goaltender Casey DeSmith, who played so well against BU in the game before the holiday break, turned in another poised performance in the final period. On a rare penalty shot, DeSmith stood tall, moved laterally to his right, and made a kick save against Brown's Captain Jack Maclellan.

Next Saturday's game at Frozen Fenway will attract one of the largest viewerships for a UNH hockey game in recent years. On the strength of Di Girolamo's accomplishments last season and his stature as the senior goalie, he probably will get the start against the University of Maine. However, unless Di Girolamo returns to the form that made him a premier goalie in Hockey East, UNH fans may see a lot more of Casey DeSmith in the second half of the season.

This and That
~ Associate Coach Jim Tortorella - brother of the f-bomb throwing Head Coach of the New York Rangers featured on HBO's "24/7" - juggled his defensive pairings throughout the game. Of note, Damon Kipp was paired with Eric Knodel on the first power play unit. Trevor van Riemsdyk had been in that role prior to tonight.
~ With Dalton Speelman and Greg Burke out of the lineup, veteran Austin Block centered the line with freshmen Casey Thrush on the left wing and Matt Willows on the right wing. That line was effective in maintaining the puck in Brown's zone and generating 5 shots on goal.
~ Over the first two periods, leading scorer Stevie Moses seemed to be looking to pass more than usual, without much success. In the final period, Moses returned to the dynamic style which generates so many unassisted shots on goal. He finished the game with 9 shots on goal. If Di Filippo hadn't robbed him a few times, the outcome of the game would have been different.


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