BOSTON, MA - Although UNH's seccond visit to the Agganis Arena this season ended in a loss, the team's performance was measurably better than the first time around. In the season opener for both teams on October 8th, UNH did not score as five players played in their first NCAA game. Tonight, UNH looked poised and made very few mistakes. When Freshman Trevor van Riemsdyk (TvR) scored his first collegiate goal at 5:05 of the final period, the score was tied at 1-1 and the shots on goal were even at 20 - a good indicator of just how tight this game was.
For the second consecutive Saturday, UNH juggled its lineup to compensate for players unable to play. Last weekend, Connor Hardowa was away on a family emergency and Kevin Goumas was shown the exits at UVM following a major penalty midway through the first period. Prior to tonight's game, two veteran forwards were injured and not in uniform. Junior Dalton Speelman got hurt last night against UMass-Lowell after crashing awkwardly into the bottom of the boards behind the net. His arm injury is still being evaluated. Sophomore Jeff Silengo was unable to play due to a sore, upper body injury. That gave Freshmen Jay Camper and Matt Willows the opportunity to step up. Playing in just his fifth college game, Camper centered the third line with fellow freshman Casey Thrush on left wing and Austin Block on right wing. Willows, playing in his inaugural college game, was on the right wing of the fourth line with Mike Borisenok at center and Kevin McCarey on left wing. UNH has only played 12 games this season and already seven new players have been integrated into the lineup.
In the first period, BU played with noticably less energy than the last time I saw them play (in the season opener). They appeared to be skating at medium speed and there were few body checks thrown. Offensively, the period was uneventful as BU outshot UNH 9-4. At about 11:30 of the period, Greg Burke made a nice rush up the left side of the BU zone and passed to John Henrion for a quick one-timer - one of Henrion's five shots on goal for the night. UNH's defensive play was solid. TvR won a few 1-on-1 battles in the defensive zone. Casey Thrush made an outstanding defensive play on BU's Charlie Coyle. With less than a minute left in the period, Coyle carried the puck around Thrush in the neutral zone, forcing him to spin around but Thrush hustled to catch up to Coyle and ended up blocking his shot. Coyle, who is BU's third leading scorer, did not get any shots on goal all evening.
The second period began much the same way. It took an unusual turnover followed by a sharp-angle shot for BU to get onto the scoreboard with 11:35 left in the period. Captain Damon Kipp, who was positioned just outside the UNH blueline, went to poke the puck toward the BU end. The puck jumped over his stick and BU's Wade Megan gathered the puck and skated well wide of Matt Di Girolamo toward the left corner. Just before the puck reached the goalline, Megan got off a rising wrist shot from a nearly impossible angle. Di Girolamo was forced to stand taller than normal and the puck slipped past his blocker into a tiny opening inside the post. In the ensuing minutes, UNH was able to test Kieran Millan a number of times. With about 9 minutes remaining in the period, Eric Knodel sent Kevin McCarey off on a partial breakaway with a pretty pass. McCarey got a shot on goal and was promptly hooked down to the ice. At the 14:32 mark, Mike Borisenok got off a quick shot from the top of the slot requiring a nice save by Millan. A minute later, Grayson Downing circled in the BU zone and got off a shot that Millan bobbled.
At 17:25 of the second period, Stevie Moses went after the puck behind the BU net and, in one continuous motion, poke checked the puck and contacted the skate of a BU player. The player went down and Moses was called for tripping on what looked like a marginal call from my position about 15 rows away. Behind 1-0, UNH could not afford to give up a goal so late in the second period and their penalty killing responded. Early on, Casey Thrush made a nice play, poke checking the puck out of the zone. The UNH defensemen did an effective job for the remainder of the BU power play keeping the BU players away from the front and sides of the net. BU was not able to score. At the end of two, the shots on goal were 19-11 in favor of BU.
At the start of the third period, UNH noticably stepped up the offensive pressure. In the first minute, TvR carried the puck into the BU zone, deked around one BU player, then deked around another, got a shot off on Millan, circled behind the net, went to the blueline, stopped the puck from clearing the zone and got off another wrister on goal. Two testing shots by TvR in less than half a minute. At 1:08, Alex Chiasson was called for high sticking. With some nice passing on the power play, UNH registered four more shots on goal. Then at 5:05 of the third period, TvR tied the score with a wrist shot - his first NCAA goal.
In an attempt to relieve the UNH pressure, BU tried a home run pass from inside their zone across two lines but the puck was iced. Seven minutes into the period, Freshman Matt Willows raced with the puck from his own end into the BU zone and wristed a shot on Millan. The momentum had shifted in UNH's favor.
In a quick turnaround, BU scored twice in less than a minute. At 7:29, Max Nicastro's slap shot from between the top of the circles got past a screened Di Girolamo. At 8:05, BU broke in on Di Girolamo with a 2-on-1 and the puck appeared to go off Corey Trivino's upper body into the goal. The play was reviewed and the goal stood. At that time, the shots on goal were even at 22 and BU was ahead 3-1.
Over the last eleven minutes of the final period, UNH pressured BU outshooting them 12 to 5. At times, UNH was swarming around the net getting shots on goal and trying to poke and jamb the puck past a sprawling Millan. At one point, the first line of Goumas, Sorkin, and Moses kept the puck in the BU end for an entire shift. But, it was not to be. Di Girolamo was pulled with 1:43 left to play. Austin Block poked at the puck a couple of times but Millan stood his ground. At 18:47, Matt Nieto sent a weak shot toward the empty net - it bounced and dribbled down the ice and curved ever so slightly into the net. Final score: BU 4, UNH 1. SOG: UNH 34, BU 27. UNH HIGHLIGHTS
~ Trevor van Riemsdyk has figured out what it takes to play at the Division 1 level and his confidence is evident. In the offensive zone, he doesn't rush when he is controlling the puck and often feathers tape-to-tape passes. In the defensive zone, he is difficult to beat one-on-one and his positioning has improved.
~ Eric Knodel has quietly played solid defense. When he gains control of the puck in his own end, he handles it with poise and patience.
~ Matt Willows, in his first college game, played with speed, tenacity, and grit. He didn't shy away from using his body when he was forechecking. In one sequence in the third period, Willows was checked by a much larger BU player just inside the blueline but retained the puck and passed to Kevin McCarey who got off a shot on goal.
~ Kevin Goumas, playing in Speelman's place on the first line, seemed to be around the puck much of the night. He finished the game with 6 shots on goal.
Next up, a rare game against Harvard. Gametime 7:00, Tuesday, November 22nd at the Bright Hockey Center.