Sunday, December 02, 2012

#2 UNH Sweeps Season Series with UMass-Lowell

LOWELL, MA - The team with the best winning percentage in college hockey has a target on its back. Opponents will try anything to bring the top dog down. Last night, UMass-Lowell took its last shot at UNH in their season series finale and missed. UNH (Overall: 11-1-2; Hockey East: 8-1-1) fended off UMass-Lowell's (Overall: 4-7-1; Hockey East: 2-6-1) final assault 5-2 at the Tsongas Arena.

As anticipated, the River Hawks attempted to intimidate the Wildcats by knocking them around - sometimes during play, sometimes after the whistle. It didn't work. UNH absorbed the hits, adapted, and eventually gained control of the game. So far this season, UNH has proven it can beat any team no matter what style of hockey the opponent executes.

There are a few Division I teams who have only lost 2 games this season - Denver (WCHA), Miami (CCHA), BC (Hockey East), Dartmouth and Yale (ECAC), and Niagara (ACHA). UNH stands atop the pack with only one loss. Dartmouth will get a crack at UNH at the Ledyard National Bank Classic in Hanover at the end of December. And, of course, there is the much anticipated series of games against BC - two in January, one in February. As of today, BC is ranked #1 and UNH #2.

Photo courtesy of Walter Rossini

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).
~ Forward Lines: Thrush-Goumas-Gaudreault; Sorkin-Silengo-Henrion; MacDonald-Pavelski-Camper; Defensive Pairings: Kostolansky-Agosta; Knodel-Pesce.
~ During warmups, freshman Dan Correale was in uniform as an extra forward. Grayson Downing, who injured his left leg Friday night, appeared to be favoring it in warmups but his mobility had improved. Correale may have warmed up as a possible backup. Downing was good to go and Correale was not in the lineup.
~ For now, freshman Maxim Gaudreault has earned a regular slot on the second line. Fellow freshmen Collin MacDonald and Dan Correale have been taking turns on the fourth line.

Game Summary

First Period:
UML came out banging from the start. Their prime tactic was to immediately hit whichever UNH player made the first pass to move the puck up ice. The UNH players were adept at making the pass and ducking out of the way in the same motion. However, UML was somewhat effective at disrupting the flow of UNH's puck movement.

Kevin Goumas was a prime target for UML's assault. On his second shift, two UML players simultaneously stood him up with body checks. Goumas grabbed his right shoulder and his right arm was hanging a bit as he skated up ice into the UNH zone. Goumas then blocked a close-in UML shot at Casey DeSmith.

Goumas came right back out on the next shift and showed no signs of injury. For good measure, he hacked at a UML defender after the puck moved out of the UML zone. One of the referees was a few feet away but overlooked the obvious slashing. Perhaps a makeup, non-call.

Over the first 7 minutes of play, UNH held a 4-1 advantage in SOG. UML generated little offense and iced the puck a couple of times.

With a little over 9 minutes left in the period, UML's Steven Buco scored his first goal of the game. Casey DeSmith was on his knees and the puck was just sitting near the crease. Buco slid the puck under DeSmith's pads.

With 8 minutes left, a UML player skated down the left wing on a partial breakaway and hit the post. Scott Pavelski was penalized for interference as he attempted to disrupt the play.

On the subsequent power play, UML generated 3 SOG but did not score.

Matching penalties at 15:01 lead to 4-on-4 play. That's when UNH stepped up the offensive pressure. Senior Captain Connor Hardowa blasted a slap shot from the right point that goalie Doug Carr juggled. In fact, Carr fumbled a number of shots in the first period.

A UML penalty gave UNH a 4-on-3 advantage. Second-year defenseman Eric Knodel unloaded a slapper from the top of the faceoff circle and hit the post. After the power play, UNH took over the momentum and territorial play.

With the final seconds ticking away and UNH forcing the offense, John Henrion fired on Carr and the rebound went out to Knodel. He was positioned in nearly the identical spot at the top of faceoff circle. This time, Eric Knodel (4th goal of season) zipped a wrist shot into the high corner of the net.

Shots on Goal: UNH 13, UML 8.

Second Period:
UNH's momentum carried throughout the second period. Just over a minute into the period, Kevin Goumas fed second-year defenseman Justin Agosta (1st goal of season) at the top of the faceoff circle to the left of UML goalie Doug Carr. Agosta's wrist shot beat Carr low to his glove side. Carr appeared to be partially screened.

UNH's only hiccup in the period came less than a minute after the Agosta goal. Scott Wilson carried the puck across the front of the crease. Casey DeSmith appeared to try and anticipate a shot and waived his stick out in front of him. Though Wilson was unable to get the shot away, DeSmith ended up out of position to the right of the goal crease. Wilson centered a pass to Buco who poked it into the open net. Score tied 2-2.

A minute later, Trevor van Riemsdyk threaded a pass from just inside the UNH blueline to Austin Block who had just crossed the red line. Block went in on a breakaway and hit the post. In the process, Block was hooked by a UML player. I thought a penalty shot was warranted but a 2-minute penalty was called instead.

Less than a minute into the UNH power play, Kevin Goumas was pushed and shoved along the half boards after the whistle had blown. Goumas had enough. He retaliated and was penalized for hitting after the whistle. UNH killed off the penalty only allowing 1 SOG.

In the middle portion of the stanza, UNH played a more wide-open style and generated 6 SOG to UML's 0.

At the 10:30 mark, sophomore Jay Camper, once again, was slammed head-first into the boards. The referees could have chosen between a boarding, hitting-from-behind, or attempt to injure penalty. However, they did not call any penalty. Camper, who has dealt with recurring concussion symptoms, left the ice under his own power and later rejoined the action.

With a 8 and 1/2 minutes left in the period, Alternate Captain Brett Kostolansky made a beautiful pass from the point across ice to junior Dalton Speelman, positioned next to the net to the left of goalie Carr. Speelman (3rd goal of season) took one whack at the puck, Carr made the save but left the rebound. Speelman whacked it a second time and it when in the net. This turned out to be the game winning goal.

With 4 minutes left, Kevin Goumas lead a 3-on-2 break into the UML zone, shot, and hit the post.

UNH outshot UML 11-4 in the second period and held an overall advantage of 24-12.

Third Period:
In the final period, Casey DeSmith looked sharper and made some big-time saves.

Just over a minute into the third period, Connor Hardowa was boarded into the half-wall. In the ensuing powerplay, UNH executed a few dump-and-chase maneuvers but was mostly unable to setup in the zone or effectively pass the puck around. They did generate 3 SOG.

With 15 minutes remaining, Casey DeSmith positioned himself perfectly and saved a point blank shot. Brett Kostolansky then effectively battled for the puck, came away with it, and made a nice breakout pass.

At the 13:42 mark, freshman Maxim Gaudreault was called for tripping. This was UML's big chance to tie the game but UNH shut them down. Trevor van Riemsdyk single-handedly killed off 20 seconds of the power play by carrying the puck end-to-end. Shortly after, with the puck back in the UNH zone, TvR swatted away a loose puck in the crease in front of DeSmith. UML managed only 1 SOG.

A half minute after the UML power play ended, DeSmith alertly saved a misdirected UNH pass that flew in front of the crease.

With 9 minutes left on the clock, freshman defenseman Brett Pesce scored his first NCAA goal. Jeff Silengo won a faceoff in the UML end and the puck got back to Pesce on the right point. Pesce threaded a wrist shot past Carr who was partially screened. UNH 4, UML 2.

Shortly after the Pesce goal, Casey DeSmith made his biggest series of saves of the game. A UML player, positioned in the low slot, shot once and DeSmith blocked it with his right pad. The UML player tried to knock the rebound home but DeSmith gloved it.

With 2 minutes remaining, a scrum for the puck erupted around DeSmith. After a couple seconds, DeSmith covered up the puck. The sequence was reviewed on video replay because there were so many players crowded in and around the crease. The referees ruled no goal.

With a minute left, UML pulled Carr from the net. Grayson Downing gathered the puck just over the UNH blueline and sent Dalton Speelman (4th goal of season) in alone for the empty net goal. UNH 5, UML 2.

Final Shots on Goal: UNH 35, UML 24. Video Highlights available on

UNH Stars of the Game

#1 Star - Eric Knodel
~ Knodel could have easily had 2 goals in the game. Just prior to his wrist shot goal, he fired a slap shot from a similar position and nearly beat Carr.
~ Knodel's defensive play was solid, once again, and he finished with a +/- rating of +1.

#2 Star - Dalton Speelman
~ Both of Speelman's goals, including the game winner, were the result of him being in the right place at the right time.
~ Speelman generated 3 shots on goal and finished with a +2 rating.

#3 Star - Brett Pesce
~ The 18-year-old Pesce has been a regular in every UNH game this season. He gets credit for scoring his first NCAA goal of his college hockey career.
~ In addition to Pesce's solid defensive play - his overall +/- rating is +2 - he typically carries the puck into the UNH zone a few times each game.

Points of Interest

~ Unless UMass-Lowell manages to make the Hockey East Playoffs and draws a first-round matchup with UNH, the Wildcats have seen the last of them for this season. That's good news. Lowell played a punishing, physical game in the last two games of the series.
~ A vocal and sizable contingent of UNH students, in addition to many other UNH fans, made the Tsongas Arena a more hospitable rink for the visiting Wildcats.
~ With Boston College losing to BU on Friday - their second loss of the season - it will be interesting to see the weekly national rankings on Monday. Last week, UNH received 1 first place vote and they are bound to pick up a few more this week.



... try anything to bring down the top'CAT!

Dec 3, 2012, 9:27:00 AM  

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