Sunday, January 15, 2012

UNH Smothers Dartmouth 4-1

MANCHESTER, NH - It's time to recognize the valuable contributions of new Associate Coach Jim Tortorella. The 2012 UNH Wildcats have started to play an effective, aggressive-style of team defense. Over the first two periods of the 11th Annual Riverstone Cup, UNH only allowed Dartmouth 8 shots on goal. Everyone from freshman goalie Casey DeSmith, to the defensemen, to the back-checking forwards contributed to a stifling defensive effort which resulted in a 4-1 victory over Dartmouth. Coach Tortorella, whose primary responsibilities include the goalies, defensemen and penalty kill units, deserves a measure of credit for UNH's improved defensive play.

The difference between UNH's play in its own end over the last two games and what often happened during the first half of the season is striking. During the long stretch from mid-November until the end of 2011, when UNH lost 7 out of 8 games, the players were often ineffective at intercepting passes, blocking shots, and covering opposing players around the net. Following the 1-0 shutout of Providence College on Wednesday night, Coach Umile praised the team for not allowing grade A scoring opportunities. Tonight, the UNH fans who braved the cold on their way to the Verizon Wireless Arena got to see for themselves how much the team defense has improved. The defensemen and forwards used their speed and agility to attack the puck carrier, clog up the passing lanes, and push opposing players away from the net. On those few occasions when a shot got through to DeSmith, he was up to the task - either directing rebounds safely into the corners, making a glove save, or pouncing on the puck to stop play. Overall, DeSmith made 21 saves against Dartmouth to go along with 26 saves at Providence.

The same attacking defense was also evident when UNH killed off three power plays. Rather than remaining static in a tight box in front of DeSmith, the penalty killers were pursuing the puck carrier out on the perimeter. For example, during one penalty-kill sequence in the third period, defenseman Connor Hardowa skated from below the goal line out to the top of the circle to poke-check the puck away from a Dartmouth attacker.

Dartmouth's only goal came midway through the first period seconds after a UNH power play ended. A nice outlet pass sent forwards Doug Jones and Matt Lindblad off on a 2-on-1 break. After some nifty passing between the two, Lindblad beat DeSmith who had little chance of making the save.

Plenty of Offense

UNH defensive dominance was matched by its offensive effort. Over the first two periods, UNH outshot Dartmouth 23 to 8 and lead 3-1. Tomorrow's headlines will highlight Senior Stevie Moses extraordinary display of 8 shots on goal and 4 goals. There were also plenty of assists to go around. Moses first goal was a one-timer, slap shot set up by a perfect pass from Freshman Trevor van Riemsdyk. His second goal - a shorthanded goal early in the second period - came on a 2-on-1 break with Kevin Goumas. Moses third goal with less than 5 minutes remaining in the period came when he banged in a rebound off a slap shot from Connor Hardowa. The fourth goal by Stevie Moses, which came about 7 minutes into the final period, was one for the highlight reel. Nick Sorkin dug the puck out from behind the net and Moses zipped a backhand shot with his back facing Dartmouth goalie James Mello.

Adjustments That Have Paid Off

~ Ever since Freshman Casey DeSmith replaced Matt Di Girolamo in the third period against Brown University, he seems to be gaining confidence.

~ At the Frozen Fenway game against Maine, Kevin Goumas and Nick Sorkin switched positions on the first line. Goumas is now centering Sorkin on the left wing and Moses on the right wing. While Sorkin was productive as a center, Kevin Goumas adds quickness and dogged tenacity to the line's forechecking. Goumas is particularly effective when he controls the puck behind the opponents' net.

~ First-year defenseman Justin Agosta was paired with veteran Brett Kostolansky. On those occasions when Agosta gets caught up in the offensive play, Kostolansky's speed allows him to cover any breakouts into the neutral zone.

UNH Stars of the Game

#3 Star: Kevin Goumas - 3 assists and 3 shots on goal; Goumas was in the thick of the action every shift.

#2 Star: Casey Desmith - The game against Dartmouth marked DeSmith's fourth full game in his NCAA career. The freshman goalie from Rochester, NH now has a save percentage of .929 and a goals-against average of 2.00.

#1 Star: Stevie Moses - Moses was named the "Player of the Game" for the 11th Annual Riverstone Cup.


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