Saturday, October 13, 2012

UNH Begins Season with 5-3 Win Over St. Cloud

DURHAM, NH - If it's possible to blunt the bad memories of last season's dismal beginning in a single evening, then UNH has succeeded. Last fall, the 2011-12 Wildcats managed to score only one goal in their first three games. In the season opener against St. Cloud State University Friday night, UNH scored 5 times and blitzed the Huskies' goalie with 39 shots on goal. Preseason concerns about whether UNH will score enough goals while playing solid defense have been reduced.

Game Summary

Although the Whittemore Center was not filled to capacity - the crowd was estimated at 4300 - the remarkable turnout of UNH students filled the arena with electricity and enthusiasm. If you couldn't make it to the game or watch it on Comcast or Fox College Sports, here's a summary of the scoring plays plus some video highlights courtesy of

UNH dominated the first period outshooting St. Cloud 15-6 and building a 2-0 lead. St. Cloud stormed out of the locker room at the beginning of the second period and immediately laid several robust body checks. At times, St. Cloud maintained extended possessions in the UNH zone. Shots on goal were fairly even - 10-9 in favor of St. Cloud - and they tied the score at 2-2. UNH picked up the pace in the 3rd period scoring twice within the first 3 minutes. UNH outshot St. Cloud in the final stanza 15-7.

Between The Lines

The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings
~ Starting Lineup: Nick Sorkin (LW)- Grayson Downing (C)- Dalton Speelman (RW); Trevor van Riemsdyk (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD).
~ Forward Lines: Burke-Goumas-Block; Thrush-Silengo-Henrion; Camper-Pavelski-Willows; Defensive Pairings: Kostolansky-Agosta; Quast-Pesce.
~ The four forward lines were exactly the same as in the exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier.
~ Notable was the absence of Eric Knodel from the lineup. In his place, Freshman Harry Quast played in his first NCAA Division I game.

UNH Stars of the Game
#1 Star - Dalton Speelman
~ In case anyone was wondering whether UNH missed the scoring punch of Dalton Speelman last season, the answer is a resounding "yes". The junior forward scored 2 goals, including the eventual game winner and added an assist. He had 6 shots on goal.
~ Both of Speelman's goals were scored as he received a pass while streaking toward the St. Cloud net.
~ Speelman was also strong on the penalty kill. With about 9 minutes left in the gain, St. Cloud got to within 2 goals. About a minute later, St. Cloud went on the power play with a chance to draw to within a goal of UNH. On two occasions, Speelman back checked as St. Cloud was entering the UNH zone and cleared the puck both times.
#2 Star - Trevor van Riemsdyk
~ On TvR's shorthanded goal in the second period, he matched the speedy Speelman stride for stride as they streaked into the St. Cloud zone. TvR appears to have gained some quickness and speed during the offseason.
~ On UNH's 4th goal, TvR created the scoring opportunity by stealing the puck just inside the blueline and laying a soft pass onto Speelman's stick.
~ He ended up with a +/- rating of +2. One-on-one in the defensive zone, TvR is difficult to beat.
#3 Star - Grayson Downing
~ As a left winger last season, Downing often had to rely on others to create plays. Now, as the first line center, Downing's extraordinary play-making abilities are becoming obvious. In the offensive zone, he can maneuver in tight spaces and dish out soft, on the stick passes.
~ It's noticable how much more physically demanding the center position is. On the forecheck, Downing is grinding against the defensemen. In his own zone, he's banging behind the net and in the corners helping his own defensemen to gain control of the puck.
~ Downing makes some flashy stick-handling plays. I'd need to see it on slow-motion replay to be sure, but a couple times he appeared to make a back-handed pass to himself while spinning away from an opposing player.
~ Downing finished the game with 2 assists and a +1 rating.

Points of Interest
~ All four centers - Downing, Goumas, Silengo, and Pavelski - did an excellent job helping the UNH defensemen behind their own net and in the corners. This type of play was lacking early last season.
~ Having Kevin Goumas and Austin Block on the same line is advantageous because they both have experience playing center. The combination leads to effective forechecking
. ~ UNH was particularly effective using their sticks to block shots and poke check in their own end.
~ As noted during the exhibition game, freshman defenseman Brett Pesce relies on quick skating and stick work to defend against opposing forwards - as opposed to physical play. He is very good at it.
~ Freshman Harry Quast held his own during his sporadic shifts on defense. He kept up with the St. Cloud forwards and played his man effectively.
~ A few times when UNH was shorthanded, sophomores Jay Camper and Matt Willows played on the first penalty kill unit. They too were effective
~ Sophomore Casey Thrush was very strong in the corners.
~ Casey DeSmith had a routinely solid game and made a few outstanding saves.
~ UNH students filled all four student sections plus one of the sections at the opposite end of the arena. The frequency and volume of cheering from the students is the best I've seen in years
~ Last but certainly not least, congratulations to Coach Dick Umile on his 500th career win.


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