Sunday, February 19, 2012

UNH Seniors Leave The Whitt As Winners

DURHAM, NH - Following an emotional Senior Night ceremony at the Whittemore Center, the 2011-12 UNH Wildcats took care of business defeating Vermont 3-1. The evening began with individual introductions of the six UVM seniors lead by long-time nemesis, goalie Rob Madore. The crowd's applause was steady throughout. In a classy display of respect, Head Coach Kevin Sneddon stood on the ice in front of the UVM bench during the introduction of his seniors and the entire ceremony surrounding the UNH seniors.

Next up, the introduction of the six UNH senior players who have made unique contributions to the team's success over the last four seasons. As a group, they are the only senior class in Division I hockey to have advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals over the last three seasons. Tyler Scott, who entered UNH as an outstanding prep school goalie from the South Kent School, made countless saves against prolific UNH goal scorers such as Bobby Butler, James van Riemsdyk, and Paul Thompson. The importance of a backup goalie at a top-flight Division I program is largely unrecognized, but Scott was a key contributor to the team's development.

Kevin McCarey came to UNH from the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So far in his senior season, McCarey has scored 4 goals and 6 assists and has an impressive +/- rating of +4. McCarey is a mainstay on the UNH penalty kill.

The next player to accept flowers and an embrace from his parents was goalie Matt Di Girolamo. The moment gave UNH fans an overdue opportunity to thank DiGi for his award-winning junior year and express their appreciation for the standup way he has handled the changing of the guard in the UNH net. The applause was prolonged.

One of the most electrifying players to ever don a UNH jersey, Stevie Moses, has treated us all to his blazing speed from the moment he jumped onto Lake Whittemore and scored an assist against Wisconsin in October, 2009. Moses ability to generate shots on goal, often entirely on his own, is unparalleled. In his senior season to date, Moses has registered 149 shots on goal in 31 games (4.80 SOG per game) - just shy of 5 shots on goal per game. That's the highest rate of shots for any UNH player over at least the last decade. The only Hockey East players to generate more shots on goal since the 1999 season were Boston College's Nathan Gerbe (5.65 in 2008) and Patrick Eaves (5.28 in 2005). Stevie Moses and UMaine's Joey Diamond are the only Hockey East players to score 20 goals so far this season.

Co-Captain Damon Kipp from Salmon Arms, British Columbia travelled the farthest to play for the Wildcats. The amiable defenseman and his pro-style game have lead the resurgence of UNH's team defense. Since the Frozen Fenway loss to Maine, UNH has given up an average of only 2 goals per game over the last 11 Hockey East contests.

Finally, Co-Captain Mike Borisenok hustled to center ice for his moment of recognition. The tale of the tape lists Borisenok as the shortest player on the UNH roster. However, the example he set as a high-energy, fierce competitor was crucial in guiding UNH beyond a slow start early in the season.

Capping off the pregame ceremonies was a moving rendition of both the Canadian and United States National Anthems by Reverend Robert Thompson. The special acknowledgement of Canadian players Damon Kipp, Connor Hardowa, and freshman Grayson Downing was fitting and would be a welcome addition to all pregame ceremonies.

Game Highlights and Notes

~ Although Matt Di Girolamo may have been the sentimental favorite to start against Vermont, the importance of the game dictated the need to go with #1 goalie Casey DeSmith. In the shocking 4-3 overtime loss to UVM on Friday night, DeSmith may have had his least proficient performance in goal. The freshman gave up 4 goals on only 21 shots. UVM scored on its only shot on goal during overtime.

Saturday night was a sharp contrast. DeSmith made a number of glittering saves - some during key points of the game. Perhaps his biggest save of the game came with just under 13 minutes left in the game. With UNH leading 2-1, UVM entered the offensive zone 3-on-2 and Justin Agosta was playing without his stick. UVM swarmed the net and DeSmith made a sprawling save to stop the action.

The only goal allowed by Casey DeSmith was flukey. With about 3 minutes remaining in the 1st period, DeSmith made a routine stick save on an innocent shot but the puck ricocheted off the backboard and landed right in the crease. Junior Brett Bruneteau, a transfer from the University of North Dakota, easily tapped it in.

~ If not for several spectacular saves by UVM's Rob Madore, UNH could have won by many more than 2 goals. Madore was peppered with 41 shots and he stopped 38 of them. Madore has always played exceptionally well against UNH. Who can forget the Hockey East quarterfinals in 2010 when Madore and UVM shut out UNH 1-0 in the final two games? Whenever I remember Rob Madore, I'll have an image of him on the ice, in a spread-eagle split, snatching the puck with his glove.

~ In the opening 10 minutes of the game, UNH played somewhat tentatively without a lot of energy. One exception was freshman Casey Thrush who made a strong rush toward the net and registered an early shot on goal. With about 11 minutes left in the period, Thrush went aggressively toward a UVM puck carrier along the half-boards in the UVM zone. Thrush was called for hitting from behind and because the UVM Captain Brett Leonard crashed awkwardly into the boards, Thrush was given a game disqualification.

UNH's penalty kill play has become a strength as the season has progressed and they successfully killed off the ensuing 5-minute penalty. Early on, Stevie Moses and Kevin McCarey separately generated a shot on goal against Madore after breaking out of their own end. UVM didn't record their 1st shot on goal until 2 minutes into the penalty. Fittingly, Casey DeSmith ended the penalty kill with a glove save. UVM registered only 3 shots on goal during the 5 minutes.

~ For reasons not made public, John Henrion was a "healthy scratch" on Friday night. Henrion is the team's 5th leading scorer with 5 goals and 12 assists. More importantly, the Downing-Burke-Henrion line has emerged as the one Coach Umile matches up against the top line of opposing teams. Henrion's absence in the overtime loss on Friday was noticable.

On Saturday night, Henrion played aggressively with high energy and hustle. He made a number of tape-to-tape passes to his linemates, generated a team-high 6 shots on goal and added an assist on the game-winning goal. That powerplay goal at the 15:02 mark of the 2nd period demonstrated the strength of that line. All three players were parked around the front of the crease - Downing to the left of Madore, Henrion in front, and Burke to the right of the crease. Henrion took the initial shot and Burke banged home the rebound.

~ Seniors Kevin McCarey and Mike Borisenok made their last game at the Whittemore Center one of their best. Borisenok had an assist and 2 SOG and earned the #1 Star. McCarey stepped his pace up a notch, was often around the puck, had 4 SOG and scored the game-tying goal. On that play, Borisenok stole the puck at the top of the circle, rushed toward the net and fed McCarey who was wide open on the right wing.

The Road Ahead

In the battle for the final Hockey East playoff spots, UNH (22 points) is now in 7th place and has maintained its 4 point lead over Northeastern and UMass-Amherst (tied for 8th). Both have played one less Hockey East game than UNH.

UNH plays two games against UMass-Amherst next weekend at the Mullins Center. UNH can virtually guarantee a playoff spot by winning one game or tying both games in Amherst. UNH will play its final regular season game on Saturday, March 3rd at Maine. The 4:00 PM game will be covered by NESN.


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