UNH Defeats St Francis Xavier 5-2 in Exhibition Game
Picked to finish 4th in the Hockey East Coaches Poll, UNH took to the Whittemore Center ice for a preseason exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier University (Antigonish, Nova Scotia). The Wildcats have been practicing under the direction of Captain Connor Hardowa and Alternate Captains Greg Burke and Brett Kostolansky. Tonight, Coach Umile and his coaches got a chance to work with the full roster for the first time this season. It was first time fans got to see UNH's incoming freshmen.
UNH ~ With 7 players in the Class of 2016, this is one of the largest freshman classes in recent history. ~ UNH returns 7 out of the 8 top scorers from last season - Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas, Grayson Downing, Trevor van Riemsdyk, John Henrion, Connor Hardowa, and Austin Block. ~ Four players - Greg Burke (ankle), Dalton Speelman (wrist), Jeff Wyer (knee) and Brett Pesce (shoulder) - are returning after injuries which lead to missing multiple games. ~ Last season was the first in time in 11 years that UNH did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament
The Freshmen Brett Pesce ~ One month before his 18th birthday, the 6'3", 175 lbs. right shot defenseman played a regular shift on the third defense pairing the entire game. ~ I was pleasantly surprised at how often Pesce (pronounced PESH-ee) carried the puck out of the UNH zone and through center ice. Showing adept skating and agile stickwork, Pesce brought the puck into the offensive zone on a few occasions. Early in the 3rd period, Pesce rushed through the neutral zone and around the back of the St.FX goal before making a soft pass. ~ In the defensive end, Pesce relied on his quick feet and stick in 1-on-1 situations - he didn't throw his body around. ~Early in the 1st period, Pesce absorbed two heavy body checks and came away from the scrum with the puck. Maxim Gaudreault ~ Although the 20-year-old Gaudreault (pronounced GO-DRO) did not play regularly early in the game, he got his opportunity to play a regular shift after senior Austin Block received a game disqualification at the end of the first period. ~ At 6'0", 190 lbs., the left shot, left winger is big and sturdy. Not as big as Greg Burke but he's a faster skater. ~ Throughout the last 2 periods, Gaudreault played regularly on the 4th line with Scott Pavelski at center and Matt Willows on right wing. ~ Showed tenacious play on either side of the UNH blueline keeping the puck in the zone and disrupting StFX's attempts to break out through the center zone. ~ Gaudreault finished with a +/- rating of +1 and had 2 shots on goal. Harry Quast ~ Quast, a 6'4", 215 lbs., left shot defenseman entered the game midway through the 2nd period. Quast was rotated into the lineup, usually paired with Connor Hardowa, giving the top six defensemen some rest. ~ I was reminded by the first time I saw Quest play last season in the EJHL. He played with poise - similar to the deliberate, calm style of Eric Knodel. ~ Quast made a nice tape-to-tape, first pass out of the defensive zone in the 2nd period. ~ Overall, Quast skated smoothly in open ice and played the body effectively in the corners and along the backboard. Dan Correale, Collin MacDonald, Kyle Smith, & Jamie Regan suited up for the pregame warmups and were individually introduced during the pregame ceremonies. They were not on the bench during the game. Jamie Hill did not warmup with the team and was in the stands for the game.
UNH Stars of the Game #1 Star - Trevor van Riemsdyk ~ If this exhibition game is any indication of how TvR will play this season, UNH fans have reason to be concerned about whether he will turn pro before he plays a full four seasons. ~ Every strength of TvR's game - quarterback of the power play, excellent passer, disrupter of play in the defensive zone, intuition for how the play in all zones will evolve - was showcased last night. ~ TvR finished the game with 2 goals on 8 shots and a +1 rating. #2 Star - Grayson Downing ~ As a freshman, Downing played primarily on the left wing and was the team's third leading scorer with 10 goals and 13 assists. Playing as the first line center last night, Downing appeared to make the adjustment seamlessly. At center, his passing skills and play around the net stood out. ~ The respectable numbers that Downing posted - 1 assist, 3 shots, +1 rating - don't fully reflect his dominance while on the ice. ~ On UNH's 4th goal, Downing stole the puck just inside the blueline and flipped a perfect backhand pass to Dalton Speelman, sending him on goal alone. ~ Playing on the first powerplay unit, Downing effectively controlled puck movement from his position near the right faceoff circle (reminiscent of Phil DeSimone's play from that spot). #3 Star - Dalton Speelman ~ Although Speelman missed most of last season with a wrist injury, he quickly reminded UNH fans why he is a first-line forward. His speed and movement in the offensive zone should help fill the gap left by the departure of Stevie Moses. ~ Speelman posted a goal and an assist with 2 SOG and a +1 rating. Honorable Mention - Jay Camper ~ Last season, Camper showed signs of solid play but seemed to hold back somewhat perhaps the result of recurring concussion symptoms. Last night, Camper was going fullout and was noticable for his forechecking, penalty kill play, quickness and ability to create space in the offensive zone. ~ Late in the 2nd period, Camper effectively back-checked as StFX tried to enter the UNH zone, stole the puck, and made a tape-to-tape breakout pass to Casey Thrush.
Points of Interest ~ Playing on the left point, Justin Agosta was paired with TvR on UNH's first powerplay unit. ~ Casey DeSmith looked solid again - really enjoy watching him use his glove to snatch shots out of midair. ~ Jeff Wyer also played well making 7 saves on 8 shots. ~ Kevin Goumas, with his speed and knack for being around the puck, is exciting to watch. ~ A clear strength of the 2012-13 Wildcats will be the play of the defensemen. ~ Outstanding cheering from the student section!