Sunday, January 08, 2012

UNH Forces Overtime at Frozen Fenway

BOSTON, MA - 100 years ago, the old ball yard was constructed on the former marshlands in the Back Bay of Boston. Ever since then, the handsome brick walls have framed a long list of memorable athletic events. For the families of UNH hockey players and the UNH families who love UNH hockey, an ice hockey game played atop the infield grass on a balmy January evening has been added to the list.

Thanks to extensive media coverage leading up to Frozen Fenway 2012, fans got to watch UNH players describe how excited they were to play at Fenway in front of tens of thousands. As the UNH flag lead the team onto the ice, the noise and enthusiasm rivaled similar moments at the Whittemore Center.

Veteran fans can be forgiven for not recognizing UNH's all-time leading scorer Ralph Cox (Class of 1979) as he dropped the ceremonial puck. Back in the days when he sported a fu manchu, Cox posted an amazing 70+ points per season his last three years at UNH and was named an All-American twice. Those who don't remember seeing Ralph Cox play may recognize him as the last player cut by legendary coach Herb Brooks from the USA team that first beat Russia, then beat Finland for gold in 1980. In the fanfare of the pregame festivities, it was easy to momentarilly forget how important the contest against Maine was for the Hockey East standings.

UNH seemed to ride the tide by scoring just a minute into the game. Freshman Grayson Downing made a Crosby-like, low backhanded shot on Maine goalie Dan Sullivan forcing a right pad save. John Henrion buried the rebound. A few minutes later, Maine would tie the game on the first of their three power play goals.

Late in the first period, Senior Captain Damon Kipp was called for the first of his two penalties on the evening. Kipp, who is big and plays an aggressive, pro-style game, received a hitting from behind penalty for contact that would likely be overlooked at the professional level. UNH successfully killed off that penalty and entered the dugout tied at 1-1.

Over the first half of the second period, Maine controlled more of the territorial play than UNH. At the 10-minute mark, Kipp was penalized again for a body check that could have gone either way. His objections to the "boarding" call lasted all the way to the penalty box. UNH successfully killed off the first minute of the penalty but then John Henrion was whistled for interference.

UNH, which has the third lowest penalty minutes in Hockey East, had dug itself a considerable hole. They faced a 5-on-3 against the top Maine power play unit which features three, high-scoring seniors - Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Will O'Neill. In an outstanding individual effort, sophomore Kevin Goumas shocked the veteran Maine unit by stealing the puck at the red line, sprinting into the Maine zone on a breakaway, and beating Sullivan between his blocker and body.

Maine answered with another powerplay goal with just a few seconds left on the two-man advantage. The initial shot was redirected past freshman goalie Casey DeSmith who had no chance of stopping the deflection. UNH managed to kill off part of the subsequent 5-on-4 powerplay but Maine scored it's third powerplay goal on a shot that DeSmith did not appear to handle cleanly. Maine outshot UNH 13-3 in the second period and lead 3-2. Their momentum carried into the third period when Maine scored their 4th goal shortly after the puck dropped.

Trailing 4-2 with about 18 minutes left in regulation, UNH picked up the pace and intensity. The strength of their game - transitioning through center ice and making crisp passes into the opponents' zone - came to the fore. Kevin Goumas scored his second goal of the night on a quick pass from Stevie Moses. A few minutes later, persistent forechecking by the Grayson Downing-Jeff Silengo-John Henrion line resulted in Downing's 6th goal of his freshman season. Score tied 4-4.

For the remaining 15 minutes of the third period, both teams worked their tails off in a close-checking battle. There were no further penalties to either team. UNH outshot Maine 13-8 in the final period.

The Fenway Faithful were treated to the second overtime game of the day (UMass beat UVM in the opener). When the day began, UNH and Maine were separated by only 4 points in the Hockey East standings. UNH needed to finish up its come-from-behind effort with at least a point but it was not to be. Senior forward Brain Flynn finished off a cycling play by Maine's first line a minute and a half into overtime.

UNH Stars for the Night

#3 Star: Casey Desmith - Playing in only his fourth NCAA game and starting for the second time, the freshman goalie from Rochester, NH played well given the circumstances.

#2 Star: Grayson Downing - In his first 17 games as a college player, Downing has scored nearly a point a game. His goal against Maine placed him in a tie for third leading scorer on the team.

#1 Star: Kevin Goumas - The sophomore forward has become a mainstay on UNH's first line. His speed, quickness and tenacity resulted in two goals against Maine.

The Road Ahead

With 14 games remaining against Hockey East opponents, UNH finds itself in uncharted territory. If the season ended today, it would miss the Hockey East Tournament for the first time since most UNH fans can remember. However, they are only 1 point behind Northeastern and UMass-Amherst and 4 points behind Providence. They have 6 head-to-head games left with these teams and 2 more games against last-place Vermont.


Blogger wewonthecup85 said...

The Miracle Team beat Finland for Gold.

Jan 9, 2012, 5:20:00 PM  
Blogger C-H-C said...

Thanks for the correction! I remember lying in bed with the flu and watching those games on TV in 1980.
Mike ("C-H-C")

Jan 9, 2012, 5:40:00 PM  

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