Monday, December 31, 2012

#10 Dartmouth Outplays #2 UNH - Wins 4-1

Opening Round of Ledyard Bank Classic - UNH vs Dartmouth (Photo: Mike Lowry)

HANOVER, NH - It's difficult to predict how a college hockey team will handle the three-week layoff in December. Some teams return to competition with renewed motivation and energy. Others experience vacation lag. In the case of the UNH Wildcats (Overall: 11-3-2; Hockey East: 8-2-1), an unsettling pattern has developed over the last four years. Their loss to the Big Green of Dartmouth College (Overall: 8-2-2; ECAC: 4-1-1) in the opening round of the Ledyard Bank Classic marks the fourth season in a row that UNH has lost its first game after the December break. Last season, Brown University defeated UNH 5-2 at the Whittemore Center on December 30th. In the 2010-11 season, St. Lawrence came to Durham on January 2nd an won 2-1. The result in the 2009-10 wasn't any better as Cornell thumped UNH 5-2 on January 3rd.

For long stretches of the game, UNH was a half-step or more behind a quick and determined Dartmouth squad. At the risk of over-simplification, UNH did not play like a Top 10 team while 10th-ranked Dartmouth did.

Between The Lines

The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings
~ Starting Lineup: Dalton Speelman (LW) - Grayson Downing (C) - Austin Block (RW); Trevor van Riemsdyk (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD); Casey DeSmith (Goalie)
~ Forward Lines: Thrush-Goumas-Gaudreault; Sorkin-Burke-Henrion; MacDonald-Pavelski-Silengo; Defensive Pairings: Kostolansky-Agosta; Knodel-Pesce.
~ Alternate Captain Greg Burke returned to the lineup after missing the last 7 games. Burke had injured his left shoulder on November 16th in a game against UMass Lowell. In that game, Burke centered the top line with Dalton Speelman on left wing and John Henrion on right wing.

Game Summary

First Period:
From the outset, Dartmouth implemented a very effective fore-checking scheme. Two of their forwards pressured the UNH defenders deep in the UNH zone, often behind the goal line in back of goalie Casey DeSmith. As a result, Dartmouth maintained a territorial advantage and generated several quality shots on goal.

Just over 3 minutes into the period, Casey DeSmith made a big save but a Dartmouth player controlled the rebound and fired a shot which hit the post to the right of DeSmith.

With 14 minutes left on the clock, Freshmen Nick Blighe and Jack Barre rushed into the UNH zone. A shot was fired from between the faceoff circles and DeSmith waved his stick in vane. The shot appeared to be deflected past DeSmith. Blighe got credit for the goal - his first of his college career.

With 10 minutes remaining, UNH had its best opportunities to get on the board. Austin Block fired a shot wide of the net, just missing a big opening. Block gathered the puck in the low slot and tried to poke it past junior goalie Cab Morris. Morris smothered the puck.

With 9 minutes left in the period, Captain Connor Hardowa broke his stick in the UNH zone. Dartmouth moved the puck to the top of the circle and freshman Ryan Bullock blasted a slap shot. Hardowa, without his stick, attempted to block the shot but ended up screening Casey DeSmith. At that point, Dartmouth lead 2-0 and had outshot UNH 10-5.

At various points in the first period, UNH's defensive play in the end zone behind Casey DeSmith was not as sharp as it had been during their winning streak. One or another Dartmouth forward was able to carry the puck behind the goal line and evade the checking efforts of the UNH defenders and centerman. As a result, the Dartmouth center and forwards were able to make plays close to DeSmith.

In one such sequence, late in the period, Dartmouth maintained the puck in the UNH end for an extended period. Both Connor Hardowa and Trevor van Riemsdyk were forced to stay on the ice for an overextended shift. Out of desparation, Scott Pavelski hooked a Dartmouth player, who was moving the puck behind the UNH net, leading to a power play over the final 2 minutes of the period.

During the power play, DeSmith made two outstanding left pad saves on close in shots.

Shots on Goal: UNH 8, Dartmouth 15. 

Second Period:
Right out of the runway, UNH looked like it might get back into the game. Senior Austin Block worked a pretty give-and-go play with Grayson Downing. Block passed to Downing positioned in the faceoff circle to the right of goalie Cab Morris. Block skated down the throat of the slot and received a return pass from Downing. Block tapped it home for his 10th goal of the season. He leads the team in goals. Dartmouth 2, UNH 1.

One of the few bright spots for UNH was the play of the newly configured line of veterans Nick Sorkin, Greg Burke, and John Henrion. Early in the second period, they forechecked with energy and speed and controlled the puck in the Dartmouth end for most of their shift.

With 9 minutes left in the period, the Sorkin-Burke-Henrion line flew into the Dartmouth zone on a 3-on-2 break. Sorkin ripped off a shot forcing a big save by Morris.

A couple of ill-advised penalties dampened UNH's momentum. One was an elbowing penalty by Jeff Silengo which occurred a fair distance behind the play. Another was called on Nick Sorkin during a scrum after the whistle had blown. Sorkin attempted to pull a Dartmouth player away from the pack and ended up grabbing his helmet. He was called for roughing.

Dartmouth jumped at the opportunity with a power play goal by Tyler Sikura. The play began with Sikura all alone behind the UNH net. He passed the puck around the boards and out to the right point. Defenseman Andy Simpson fired a rising, wrist shot from the blue line and Casey DeSmith was forced to make a save while falling backwards. The rebound lay in the slot for Sikura to poke home. Dartmouth 3, UNH 1.

SOG at end of 2nd period: Dartmouth 26, UNH 17.

Third Period:
In the final period, UNH began to look more like a top-10 hockey team.

Less than a minute into the period, Austin Block fired an initial shot at Morris requiring a big pad save. Block then gathered the rebound in the low slot and wristed a point-blank shot into Morris' chest. These were 2 of Block's 8 shots on goal for the evening.

Once again, the Sorkin-Burke-Henrion line put together a couple of dominant shifts. In one sequence, the three of them crossed the blueline into the Dartmouth zone with speed - an intimidating sight. In all, the three veterans generated 2, 3, and 2 shots on goal.

With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, UNH had turned a 17 to 26 SOG disadvantage into a 29-28 advantage. Dartmouth goalie Morris made a number of outstanding saves to maintain the 2-goal lead.

With 1:25 minutes left, Coach Umile pulled Casey DeSmith for an extra attacker. Brandon McNally scored an empty net goal by just barely evading a back-checking Kevin Goumas.

Final Score: Dartmouth 4, UNH 1. SOG: Dartmouth 31, UNH 32.


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