UNH Handles Northeastern 3-1
|UNH Faces Off Against Northeastern (Photo: Mike Lowry)|
BOSTON, MA - The #3 UNH Wildcats' (Overall: 16-6-2; Hockey East: 11-5-1) victory over Northeastern University (Overall: 7-13-3; Hockey East: 4-11-3) on Friday night was a tale of two defenses. The NU defense was largely unable to counteract a tenacious UNH forecheck. As a result, the UNH forwards cycled the puck in NU's corners and generated high percentage scoring opportunties below the faceoff dots.
In contrast, the UNH defense usually prevented the puck from going down deep in their own end and forced NU to take most of their shots from beyond the faceoff dots, in front of sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith. Many of NU's 48 shots were easily tracked by DeSmith. When quality shots got through, DeSmith performed like the shutdown goalie UNH fans grew accustomed to in the first half of the season.
The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings Starting Lineup: Dan Correale (LW) - Grayson Downing (C) - Austin Block (RW); Brett Kostolansky (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD); Casey DeSmith (Goalie)
~ This is the second game in a row that freshman Correale has played on the first line. It combines two veterans of the British Columbia Hockey League along with Block, UNH's leading scorer.
Forward Lines: Speelman-Goumas-Henrion; MacDonald-Pavelski-Gaudreault; Thrush-Camper-Willows; Defensive Pairings: Knodel-Pesce; Agosta-Trevor van Riemsdyk.
~ Junior Nick Sorkin missed his second game in a row. After breaking a bone in his hand on Dec. 31st, he tried playing with a cast on in UNH's back-to-back loses against Providence and Merrimack.
~ 2/3 of the Energy Line - Willows and Camper - were joined by sophomore Thrush on left wing.
~ Freshman defenseman Brett Pesce returned to the lineup after missing last Saturday's game against Merrimack due to a hand injury.
Over the first 10 games of the season, DeSmith was easily the best goalie in Hockey East and possibly the entire nation. Since the trip to the Mile High City to face Colorado College and Denver, DeSmith has had periods when he has not been sharp.
After giving up 6 goals against Providence two weekends ago, DeSmith did not play in the first Merrimack game last Friday. He worked with UNH goalie coach Mike Buckley during the week and played efficiently in a 6-2 win over Merrimack on Saturday.
Tonight, DeSmith returned to his old form. He made the routine saves look easy and made the following spectacular saves in all three periods:
~ At 2:55 of Period 1, first-line center Garrett Vermeersch won a draw to the left of DeSmith and drew the puck back to Captain Vinny Saponari at the top of the faceoff circle. Saponari snapped a wrister through a screen of 3 UNH players and 1 NU player. DeSmith tracked the puck and saved it with his chest.
~ With only a few seconds left in the 1st period, freshman Kevin Roy dropped a pass to Saponari who wristed a shot from the faceoff dot to the right of DeSmith. DeSmith quickly lifted his right shoulder to make the save.
~ At 8:49 of Period 2, Adam Reid was left uncovered in front of DeSmith - a rare occurrence in this game - and Mike McMurty centered a pass from behind the net. Reid banged a point blank shot along the ice and DeSmith flashed his right pad to make the save.
~ At 7:22, Cody Ferriero was parked at the top of the slot - an area he frequented during the game. He snapped a quick wrister and DeSmith flashed his glove for the save. The puck was labelled for the high corner of the net.
~ With 15:30 left in the final period and NU on a power play Roy passed to Ferriero at the top of the circle to the left of DeSmith. Ferriero made a nifty cross-ice pass to Saponari at the faceoff dot to DeSmith's right. He centered a pass to Braden Primm at the top of the crease. Primm banged at the puck and DeSmith made a sprawling save.
~ At 12:44, NU was on their third power play of the game. Pimm made a cross-ice pass from the top of the faceoff circle to DeSmith's left over to Ferriero for a one-timer. DeSmith slid across the goal mouth and made a right pad save.
~ In all, DeSmith's 47 saves was his most in a game this season. DeSmith leads Hockey East with a save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.77.
#2 Star - Brett Kostolansky
The reassertion of UNH's team defense has been lead by senior Alternate Captain Brett Kostolansky. Throughout tonight's game, Kostolansky smothered opponents carrying the puck in the UNH zone.
In the second period, with Northeastern applying more offensive pressure, Kostolansky blocked 3 shots. Two of them came at around the 13:00 mark against NU's leading scorer Kevin Roy.
In the final minute of the game, NU had two extra skaters on the ice. One because of a power play and another because goalie Chris Rawlings had been pulled from the game. In that critical sequence, Kostolansky made a series of outstanding plays including:
~ Clearing the puck from deep in the UNH zone out to the blueline.
~ Cutting off a good angle shot by Ferriero.
~ Preventing Primm from camping out in the low slot.
~ Preventing a centering pass.
~ Playing 1-on-1 defense against Roy in the slot. Roy only managed a harmless shot which DeSmith easily stopped.
~ Blocking two point blank shots by Primm in the low slot.
~ And finally, clearing the puck out of the zone just before the buzzer sounded.
The scoresheet showed that Kostolansky finished with a +/- rating of zero but that number does not do justice to his outstanding defensive performance.
#3 Star - John Henrion
Less than 2 minutes into the final period, senior John Henrion scored a critical power play goal (9th goal of the season) which gave UNH a 2-goal cushion:
~ With 10 seconds left on the power play, Kevin Goumas gathered a blocked shot at the top of the faceoff circle to Rawling's left.
~ Goumas zipped a perfect, cross-ice pass to Henrion near the faceoff dot to Rawling's right.
~ In one motion and on one knee, Henrion snapped a shot into the upper corner of the net. Rawlings had no chance to slide over in time to make the stop.
In addition to this critical goal, Henrion fired 7 shots on goal.
John Henrion now has 9 goals and 8 assists. He has scored one less goal than Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas, and two less than UNH's leading goal scorer Austin Block.
Henrion has nearly doubled the goals he scored in all of last season.
~ Less than a minute later, defenseman Eric Knodel scored his 7th of the season with his deadly accurate wrist shot from the high slot.
~ All three members of the first line - Correale, Downing, and Block - posted a +/- rating of +1. In addition, they registered 2, 3 and 3 shots on goal, respectively. Freshman Correale has raised his level of play since joining the veterans.
~ UNH's newest recruit, Brendan van Riemsdyk was in attendance.
~ There weren't many puppies in the Dog House, the NU student sections at either end of the arena. Still, the Matthews Arena is a great old barn.
~ Video highlights of the game are available from gonuathletics.