A Little Payback: UNH Beats BU 4-1
DURHAM, NH - The last time UNH was ahead of Boston University 4-1 was March 11th at around 6:30 in the evening. It was the rubber game of the best-of-three Hockey East Quarterfinals at the Agganis Arena and UNH had outplayed BU for nearly two periods. A double overtime goal by nemesis Alex Chiasson put an end to the game and UNH's season. UNH outshot BU 72-55 but it wasn't to be.
Fast forward seven months and the outcome was very different. It was only the opening game of the Hockey East schedule but UNH players and Head Coach Dick Umile had made it clear at the midweek press conference that they had not forgotten the way the 2011-12 season had ended. This time, UNH jumped ahead 4-1 on a pretty bang-bang play from Matt Willows to Scott Pavelski with 14:41 left in the game and then sealed the deal.
One defining element of a Jack Parker team is the long pass. BU attempts to spread their players as far apart as possible - particularly on the bigger ice surface at the Whittemore Center - and make the long cross-ice or up-ice pass. It's an aesthetically pleasing style to watch and it helps counter UNH's speed. Although BU was able to advance the puck at times, UNH often bottled them up in the BU end and shut BU down in the UNH end. As they had been in the games against St. Cloud, UNH was very effective at intercepting and deflecting passes with their stickwork. A recap of UNH's first Hockey East victory of the season, along with video highlights, are available on unhwildcat.com.
UNH Stars of the Game
#1 Star - John Henrion ~ With a little more than 11 minutes left in the first period, senior John Henrion single-handedly generated UNH's first goal. Henrion stole the puck from BU just outside the blueline, raced to the faceoff circle to the right of BU goalie Sean Maguire and snapped off a wrister beating Maguire on the glove side. ~ Henrion is off to a fast start scoring a goal tonight and another last Saturday against St. Cloud. Tonight, he registered 6 shots on goal and hit the post in the first period. ~ Henrion was also effective as a penalty killer. Early in the second period, with Greg Burke in the penalty box, Henrion disrupted BU with his backchecking.
#2 Star - Casey DeSmith ~ Sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith made 24 saves and shut out BU over the final 59 minutes of the game. ~ In a repeat of last Saturday's performance against St. Cloud, DeSmith made a number of huge saves in the third period. None was bigger than the one he made with about 7 and 1/2 minutes left in the game. As he was moving to his right, he had to flash his glove to the left to stop a puck which was labelled for the top corner. ~ DeSmith has a perfect winning percentage - 3 games, 3 wins.
#3 Star - Justin Agosta ~ This performance may have flown under the radar but I thought second-year defenseman Justin Agosta turned in the best overall defensive play of the night. Agosta played strong in the corners and along the backwall in the UNH end. ~ Agosta shut down the BU offense at two key junctures in the third period. With about 5 minutes left in the game and BU pressing, Agosta took on BU's leading scorer Evan Rodriques along the half-wall and came away with the puck. With about 2 minutes left, Matt Nieto received a pass at the UNH blueline. Agosta was right on Nieto and forced him to flip the puck harmlessly into the endboards. ~ Fittingly, with just seconds remaining in the game and BU playing with a 2-man advantage (pulled goalie), Agosta smothered the puck along the boards behind DeSmith.
Points of Interest
~ Lead by the outrageous enthusiasm of the students, the Whittemore Center has, once again, become an exciting place to watch a hockey game. ~ In his first NCAA game, Dan Correale showed good speed and strong physical play. As the left winger on the 4th line with Scott Pavelski and Matt Willows, Correale had a couple of rushes up the left side and around the BU defenseman. His one shot on goal - a wrister from the left circle in the first period - was mishandled by the BU goalie but didn't find the back of the net. ~ First line center Grayson Downing turned in another strong performance. He threw a few solid body checks and both of his shots on goal hit the iron. ~ Overall, UNH played a physically aggressive game - up to and including the after whistle action. ~ UNH's passing is becoming crisper and more accurate with each passing game. ~ Junior Nick Sorkin had the game-winning goal tonight, has 2 goals overall, and is UNH's second leading scorer. ~ Eric Knodel's goal was more difficult than he made it look. Moving to his right between the faceoff circles, he reached across his body and snapped a wrist shot past the BU goalie. ~ Although Coach Jack Parker must have been frustrated with the outcome of the game, he went out of his way to acknowledge both referees during the after game handshakes.