UNH Scrambles for Tie with Providence
|UNH Ties Providence 3-3 (Photo: Mike Lowry)|
DURHAM, NH - After beginning the season with 11 wins, 2 ties and only 2 loses, UNH (Overall: 16-7-3; Hockey East: 11-6-2) has been scrambling to break even ever since. In their final home game in February, the Wildcats managed a come from behind, 3-3 tie against Providence College (Overall: 10-10-6; Hockey East: 8-6-5).
Three weeks ago, UNH put forth its worst effort of the season losing to this same Providence team 6-5 in Durham. They came out of the gate with low energy, played poor team defense, and gave up some soft goals. In the five games since that low point, UNH has largely solved the first problem. They've been skating hard from start to finish. In the last two games - the loss to Merrimack and tie with PC - UNH has dominated the territorial play through most of the first period.
One key aspect of team defense has also improved. UNH's defensemen and centers have been getting back into the UNH end ahead of opposing attackers and have prevented odd man rushes. As Austin Block put it earlier this week, the players have been funneling back and effectively backchecking.
The prime problem which continues to plague UNH is allowing the opposition to set up goals from below the goal line behind Casey DeSmith. All three of PC's scoring plays originated deep in the UNH zone. Each time, a UNH defenseman was unable to take the player with the puck out of the play. When an opposing player passes the puck from behind the goal line, it's difficult for DeSmith to anticipate exactly where the puck will end up. The opponent who receives the puck in either faceoff circle or the high slot has a split second advantage on DeSmith as he attempts to guess where the shot will be coming from.
In the offensive end, UNH has generated 95 shots on goal over the last two games - 43 during regulation against Providence and 52 against Merrimack - but didn't win. Ordinarily, those are winning efforts but they came against two talented goalies - former UNH goalie Bruce Gillies' son Jon and Merrimack's Sam Marotta - who performed better and better as the game progressed.
Over the last 12 games, beginning with the loss to Boston University on Dec. 8th, UNH has won 5, lost 6 and tied 1. During that stretch, UNH has won every game when they scored the first goal and lost or tied every game but one when the opponent scored first. The only exception was the 5-2 loss to BC at Chestnut Hill when Jay Camper scored the first goal of the game.
Last night's game highlights the importance of scoring first. Over the first 12 minutes, UNH outshot PC 10-2 and controlled the puck in the PC end for long stretches. Jon Gillies looked like he was fighting the puck as he bobbled it three times during what should have been routine saves. PC then scored a power play goal on their 3rd shot of the game with 8 minutes left in the period. From that point on, Gillies made numerous outstanding saves and PC played with more energy.
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)
Forward Lines: Sorkin-Goumas-Henrion; Thrush-Camper-Willows; Speelman-Pavelski-Gaudreault; Defensive Pairings: Knodel-Pesce; Agosta-Trevor van Riemsdyk.
~ After breaking a bone in the base of his hand in the Bemidji State game, Junior Nick Sorkin missed three games, played two with a cast on, missed two more games, then played with the cast last weekend against Merrimack. During this last week, Sorkin had the cast removed and he was moved up to the second line with Kevin Goumas at center and John Henrion on right wing.
~ Dalton Speelman moved down to the 4th line and freshman Maxim Gaudreault replaced Jeff Silengo.
~ During the third period, Speelman was moved up to the third line with Camper and Willows and Casey Thrush dropped down to the 4th line.
Over the first 12 minutes of the game, UNH dominated outshooting PC 10-2. One prime scoring opportunity came at 16:14 when Grayson Downing intercepted a pass at the faceoff dot to the right of Gillies. Downing knifed into the low slot and lifted a backhander at the gap between Gillies' glove hand and body. Gillies did not handle the puck cleanly and looked behind him to see if the puck got past him. It didn't.
At 7:54, Austin Block was called for interference. UNH's first penalty kill unit of Hardowa, Kostolansky, Henrion and Sorkin effectively killed off the first 50 seconds without allowing a shot on goal.
UNH changed up with Knodel, Pesce, Downing and Goumas taking the ice. On a PC break through center ice, Knodel was unable to stop Shane Luke as he carried the puck over the UNH blueline and along the boards. That left Knodel out of position along the halfwall and Pesce moved over to the same side of the ice as Knodel.
PC worked the puck around Knodel who was far away from the net out in the faceoff circle to DeSmith's left.
Luke fed the puck down to Nick Saracino at the goal line to the left of DeSmith and Pesce tried to catch up with him but couldn't.
While DeSmith was hugging the left post, Saracino zipped a diagonal pass to a wide-open Gilmour in the low slot to the right of DeSmith.
DeSmith managed to slide over to his right but Gilmour beat him on the blocker side. PC 1, UNH 0.
2nd Period - 9:54. Good Goaltending Involves Some Luck
Throughout the 1st period and into the 2nd, UNH outshot PC by a 2-to-1 margin. Gillies was holding off the barrage but needed some luck to keep UNH off the scoreboard.
Kevin Goumas lead a rush through the neutral zone and across the PC blueline. At the top of the slot, Goumas snapped a wrister just wide of the net to Gillies right.
The puck bounced off the backboard to a wide-open Nick Sorkin in the low slot. Sorkin fired a wrist shot which had Gillies beaten high on his blocker side. However, Gillies flailed at the puck and it ricocheted off the butt end of his stick just over the net.
2nd Period - 5:08. UNH Goal: Grayson Downing (11th goal of the season). Assists: Dalton Speelman (6th assist of season), Maxim Gaudreault (3rd assist of season)
UNH's persistence finally paid off late in the second period. Freshman Maxim Gaudreault fed Dalton Speelman with a nifty pass off the boards at the red line and Speelman carried the puck into the PC zone.
Speelman skated to the top of the slot and fired a wrister which Gillies deflected with his blocker.
The rebound fell into the low slot, Speelman gathered it and made a behind the back, backhand pass to Grayson Downing who had just jumped onto the ice for a line change.
Downing launched a slap shot from the mid slot which beat Gillies top corner over his glove. UNH 1, PC 1.
3rd Period - 19:30. UNH Goal: Dan Correale (2nd goal of the season). Assists: Grayson Downing (10th assist of season), Trevor van Riemsdyk (14th assist of season)
At the start of the third period, UNH had 1:18 left on a power play. Grayson Downing worked the puck down low behind Gillies and sent a pass around the dasher out to TvR at the right point.
TvR smartly sent the puck right back around the dasher to Downing still positioned behind the PC net.
Freshman Dan Correale crashed the net from the corner to the left of Gillies and Downing sent a backhand pass in his direction.
Defenseman Steven Shamanski briefly intercepted the pass but Correale stole it from him and beat Gillies 5-hole with a wrister from the top of the crease. UNH 2, PC 1.
3rd Period - 14:55. Providence Goal: Nick Saracino (4th of season).
With 16:20 left in regulation, PC broke into the UNH on a 3-on-2. Dan Correale hustled back to catch up with Ross Mauermann, the third rushing forward but didn't reach him in time. As Maurmann fired a shot on DeSmith, Correale slashed him and was sent to the box.
Once again, UNH sent Kostolansky and Hardowa out on the first penalty kill unit along with Henrion and Sorkin. Kostolansky blocked a shot and the 1st unit did not allow a SOG.
UNH changed its PK unit with 1:35 left in the powerplay. Knodel, Pesce, Block and Speelman came onto the ice.
After Speelman cleared the puck, PC carried the puck into the UNH zone and set up. This time, Knodel and Pesce were initially positioned properly in front of DeSmith to his left and right.
As they had during their first power play goal, PC worked the puck down below the goal line in the corner to the left of DeSmith. This time, it was Saracino who was by himself deep in the corner.
Saracino skated the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and Knodel left his position in front of DeSmith and tried to skate out to Saracino.
Saracino sent a pass which eluded Knodel and went to Luke who had moved to the same, deadly spot on the goalline in the corner to DeSmith's left.
With Knodel out of position, Pesce tried to skate across to the corner but Luke centered a pass to Paul de Jersey. Knodel tried to drape over de Jersey from behind but did not stop de Jersey's backhand shot.
DeSmith made the initial save but left the rebound in the crease and Saracino banged it home. UNH 2, PC 2.
3rd Period - 10:25. Providence Goal: Nick Saracino (5th of season).
The go ahead goal by Providence began with a harmless dump into the UNH zone. PC was initiating a line change. Pesce tried to jump and catch the puck but it got over his head and he briefly fell down.
The puck bounced off the backwall behind DeSmith and to his right. In an attempt to cover for Pesce, Knodel skated over from his position to the left of DeSmith and lifted the stick of Noel Acciari along the backwall. By then, Pesce had recovered and tried to pass the loose puck to Matt Willows in the corner to DeSmith's right.
Willows was unable to control the pass and it went to Drew Brown deep in the corner. Brown made a cross-ice pass to Saracino in the high slot.
Saracino sent a 3/4 slap shot past DeSmith who was partially screened by Acciari who had gotten around Knodel to the front of the net. PC 3, UNH 2.
3rd Period - 6:19. A Borderline Miraculous Save by Gillies
A few minutes after PC went ahead, Jon Gillies robbed Kevin Goumas of the tying goal.
John Henrion gathered the puck in the corner to the left of Gillies and made a diagonal pass to Knodel at the midpoint of the blueline. Knodel ripped a slap shot and Gillies made the initial save with his left leg pad.
Meanwhile, Kevin Goumas was parked at the side of the crease to Gillies left. Goumas scooped up the rebound and lifted the puck toward the top shelf.
Somehow, Gillies reached behind him and caught the puck before it crossed the goal line. A replay of this save of the season has shown up on youtube.
3rd Period - 3:26. UNH Goal: Scott Pavelski (3rd goal of the season). Assists: Casey Thrush (8th assist of season), Maxim Gaudreault (4th assist of season)
UNH would finally claw their way back to a tie late in regulation thanks to gritty work by the 4th line of Thrush-Pavelski-Gaudreault.
Casey Thrush forced his way behind the PC goal but had the puck bumped off his stick by Shamanski. Maxim Gaudreault picked up the loose puck in the corner to Gillies' left and fed Connor Hardowa at the left point.
Hardowa sent a wrister toward the net as Pavelski and Thrush battled for position in front of Gillies. Pavelski redirected the shot just wide of Gillies.
Gaudreault, with Shamanski hounding him, managed to leave the puck behind the net for Thrush who raced around the back of the net and collected the puck.
Thrush made a soft, centering pass to senior Scott Pavelski all alone in front of Gillies. Pavelski lifted a wrist shot just over Gillies right leg pad as he sprawled on the ice.
There was some justice in UNH scoring the tying goal on a play set up behind the opposing goalie. UNH 3, PC 3.
With 1 and 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Matt Willows was called for tripping in the neutral zone. Thanks to several outstanding defensive plays by Brett Kostolansky, UNH killed off the penalty.
Neither team scored in overtime. Final Shots on Goal: UNH 44, PC 42.
~ With the tie, UNH moves to within 1 point of BC for the top spot in Hockey East. UNH and Merrimack are tied for 2nd place with 24 points. Providence moves into a tie for 3rd place with Boston University (21 points).