Monday, March 18, 2013

UNH Out of Hockey East Tourney, Sets Sights on NCAA's

Gillies' Best Friend: Kostolansky Hits Post (Photo: Mike Lowry)

PROVIDENCE, RI - On the strength of two power play goals in 44 seconds, Providence College came from behind to defeat UNH 3-2 in the rubber game of the best-of-three, Hockey East Quarterfinals series. Entering the game, the immediate goal for both teams was earning a trip to the semifinals next weekend at the TD Bank Garden and a chance to win the Hockey East Championship. For the second year in a row, PC advances to the Semis and UNH does not.

Of course, the other major prize in play on Sunday was an invitation to the NCAA Tournament which begins on March 29th. If PC had lost to UNH, they would have lost any chance of playing in the NCAA's. PC's only clear path to the national tournament is to win the Hockey East Championship (as a result of an automatic bid). Providence is currently tied for 16th in the national PairWise Rankings. If they win their Hockey East semifinal matchup against UMass-Lowell next Friday but lose in the Championship game, then they could very well be on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in.

UNH, on the other hand, entered yesterday's game knowing they had a good chance of going to the NCAA's, even if they lost to PC. After the loss, UNH is still in 8th place in the PairWise Rankings. According to David Hendrickson of USCHO, "New Hampshire can (almost certainly) expect an NCAA tournament berth." Since UNH is the host school for the NCAA Northeast Regionals in Manchester, they would play the opening round of the NCAA's at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Game Summary

First Period:
PC came out of the gate on the attack. Their bread-and-butter offensive strategy is to enter the UNH zone, preferably with three attackers, and converge on the front of the net. It got them on the scoreboard just a minute and a half into the game. Mark Jankowski lead a 3-on-2 rush across the UNH blueline to the top of the slot. He made a nifty backhand pass to his linemate Tim Schaller on the right wing. Eric Knodel and John Henrion converged on Schaller leaving Jankowski open in front of Casey DeSmith. Schaller threaded a perfect backhand feed to Jankowski for a one-timer over DeSmith's left leg pad. PC 1, UNH 0.

Over the last half of the season, UNH has lost more than they have won when they've given up the first goal of the game. This was not the start they wanted. PC continued the pressure building up a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal midway through the period. Following an interference penalty to Grayson Downing at 10:03, Derek Army hit the post from just below the hash marks to DeSmith's left.

UNH started to gain a bit of momentum on their second power play of the opening stanza. Connor Hardowa passed to Brett Kostolansky near the middle of the blueline. Kostolansky blasted a slap shot which beat PC goalie Jon Gillies over his glove but hit the post (see photo above).

With 3 minutes left in Period 1, Jeff Silengo won a faceoff to the right of Gillies and passed to John Henrion on the left boards. Henrion fired a sharp angle shot that Gillies paddled behind the net. The entire Thrush-Silengo-Henrion went below the goal line and Silengo backhanded a pass to Trevor van Riemsdyk at the right point. TvR snapped a low wrist shot, Gillies stopped it but left the rebound in the crease. Henrion poked at the puck once, Gillies kicked it out with his left leg, and Henrion buried the rebound five-hole. It was Henrion's 14th goal of the season. UNH 1, PC 1. Shots on Goal: UNH 6, PC 11.

Second Period:
Beginning at 18:30 in the second period, UNH controlled the puck in the PC end for four consecutive line changes and tied the shots on goal at 12-12.

At 10:30, Jon Gillies made a flurry of outstanding saves. Henrion was sent in on a breakaway by a perfect, bank pass through the neutral zone from Casey Thrush. Henrion allowed the puck to move through the faceoff circle to Gillies left, then snapped a wrist shot in full-stride. Gillies just barely flashed his right leg pad out in time to redirect the puck to his right. The PC defenders failed to gather the puck and Jeff Silengo followed on with a slap shot from the midslot. Gillies stopped that one with his chest but the puck bounced into the low slot. Henrion pounced on it and wristed the puck past Gillies but Alex Velischek, positioned behind Gillies in the crease, shot it out of the zone.

With 10 minutes left in Period 2, UNH's pressure finally paid off. PC was called for an interference penalty and Coach Umile sent out what has become a productive power play unit - Block-Downing-Goumas up front, TvR on the right point and Eric Knodel on the left. Following a faceoff, they established the umbrella setup with TvR at the midpoint of the blueline, Goumas to his right and Knodel to his left. Goumas fed TvR who faked a slap shot but stopped his swing just before contacting the puck (a la Tiger Woods). TvR wound up again but deliberately aimed the puck at Grayson Downing's stick, resting on the ice just to Gillies left. Downing (15th goal) directed it home on one of the prettiest goals of the season. UNH 2, PC 1.

So, exactly halfway through the game, UNH had regained what they had lost in the opening minutes - a one-goal lead. They also had gained the momentum. Then, it all slipped away in a matter of minutes when UNH did two things they rarely do:
~ Commit three, consecutive penalties and
~ Give up two power play goals.

It all began with a slashing penalty to Kevin Goumas at 8:00. Austin Block almost turned the lump of coal into gold with a short-handed bid midway through the penalty. Block was sent in alone by another long-distance, bank pass through center ice, this time by Eric Knodel. Block gathered the puck in full-stride at the top of the faceoff circle to Gillies' left. Block snapped a low wrist shot aimed at Gillies' five-hole. Gillies tucked his right leg underneath himself and just barely directed the puck wide of the net. UNH killed off the penalty allowing only 1 SOG.

Only 34 seconds later, Connor Hardowa was called for an interference penalty as he knocked a PC player into the UNH net. Both teams drew an unusually high number of interference penalties in the game. Some tired legs resulting from 3 games in 3 days may have been a factor. In any event, UNH had to try to kill another penalty in short order - and they almost succeeded.

Providence's power play looked anemic as UNH killed off the first 1:48 of the penalty, only allowing one long distance shot on goal from the neutral zone. But then, just as TvR gained control of the puck behind the UNH net, Henrion stuck his stick between the legs of a PC player in front of DeSmith and flipped him forward onto the ice. The referee's arm went up but PC controlled the puck. Kevin Hart made a nice diagonal pass from the top of the faceoff circle to DeSmith's left down to Tim Shaller at the right faceoff dot. Schaller beat DeSmith with a pinpoint shot just over the blocker in the top corner of the net. PC 2, UNH 2.

And UNH's self-imposed travails weren't yet over. PC had a fresh power play opportunity. Less than a minute into the power play, Paul DeJersey executed a diagonal pass down to an open Nick Saracino to DeSmith's left. Saracino tried to redirect the puck into the net but DeSmith made a right pad save. The puck squirted out in front while DeSmith was sprawled on his stomach without his stick. Brett Pesce batted the puck away twice but three PC players were poking at it and Saracino finally lifted it into the net with a backhand shot. PC 3, UNH 2. Shots on Goal: UNH 21, PC 20.

Third Period:
UNH kept hustling in the final period and outshot PC 11 to 5.

With 7:30 remaining, Grayson Downing nearly tied it up but the post helped Gillies out one more time. Dalton Speelman carried the puck across the middle of the blueline into the PC zone. Two PC defenders covered him and he flipped a backhand pass to Downing coming down the left wing.

Downing collected the pass and snapped a wrist shot from the faceoff dot. The puck beat Gillies just to the right of his blocker but hit the post. The referees reviewed the video and confirmed that the puck didn't go in.

Final Shots on Goal: UNH 32, PC 25.

Points of Interest

~ Since the holiday break, UNH has lost 9 out 22 games. 6 of those loses have been by 1 goal.

~ In the latest USCHO Poll, UNH is ranked #10 in the nation.

~ Here are video highlights of the game from hockeyeastonline.


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