Sunday, March 03, 2013

UNH Regains Edge - Downs UMass 4-0

UNH Walks Off With 4-0 Win (Photo: Mike Lowry)

DURHAM, NH - It's been 6 years since UNH played in the Hockey East Championship game and 10 years since their last appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four. If the Wildcats reach either goal this spring, they can mark the last-second, tying goal against UMass on Friday and the convincing 4-0 win on Saturday as the first step.

On Friday night, Eddie Olczyk scored the go-ahead goal for UMass with 1:05 left in regulation. Seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Casey DeSmith raced to the bench and senior John Henrion jumped on the ice as an extra UNH attacker. Initially, UNH scrambled to control the puck in the UMass zone but was unable to generate a quality scoring opportunity.

With just 11 seconds left, Henrion backhanded the puck around the dasher behind UMass goalie Steve Mastalerz. Kevin Goumas collected the puck, came out from behind the net to Mastalerz' left, and threaded a perfect, diagonal pass to Eric Knodel at the top of the slot.

Knodel one-timed a wrister low to the ice which Mastalerz saved with his stick. The rebound trickled off to the right of Mastalerz. Henrion dove at the puck like he was jumping off the side of a swimming pool and had the presence of mind to snap off a forehand shot in midair. Mastalerz had no chance to stop it.

Each team got a couple quality scoring chances in overtime but both DeSmith and Mastalerz were up to the task. UNH came away with a crucial point although they dropped to second place in Hockey East one point behind UMass Lowell and Boston College.

John Henrion's last second heroics was just the spark UNH needed to jolt them out of a stretch of mediocre hockey which began in the final period at Vermont last Friday night. The Wildcats pounced on the Minutemen with a renewed sense of urgency right from the opening faceoff of Saturday night's game. They outshot UMass in each period beginning with a 10-5 shot advantage in the first period. Henrion notched a hat trick, Matt Willows contributed a goal, and Casey DeSmith came up big with a 25 save, shutout.

With UMass Lowell idle and BC getting thumped 5-1 by Providence, UNH (Overall: 18-8-6. Hockey East: 13-7-5) has moved into first place alone with 31 points. Lowell (30 points) plays at Merrimack (27) Sunday afternoon. UNH's victory moves them into the #4 spot in the national PairWise Rankings. Their prospects for earning home ice in the Hockey East Quarterfinal Round and being selected for the NCAA Tournament have improved. UMass (Overall: 11-18-3. Hockey East: 8-15-2) is now tied with Maine in the battle for 8th place and the last invitation to the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

Between The Lines

The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings
~ Starting Lineup: Dan Correale (LW) - Kevin Goumas (C) - Matt Willows (RW); Trevor van Riemsdyk (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD); Casey DeSmith (Goalie)
~ Forward Lines: Speelman-Downing-Block; Thrush-Sorkin-Henrion; MacDonald-Pavelski-Gaudreault; Defensive Pairings: Knodel-Pesce; Kostolansky-Agosta.
~ Coach Umile has been fine-tuning the forward lines in recent games. A prime goal has been to reignite Kevin Goumas' offensive output.
~ The biggest lineup change was moving freshman Dan Correale to the Goumas line with sophomore Matt Willows on right wing. This marks the first time that Willows has played on the first line.
~ Trevor van Riemsdyk, UNH's second-leading scorer, was moved from the third defensive pair up to the starting lineup with Captain Connor Hardowa at right defense.
~ This was the second game in a row that junior Nick Sorkin centered the 3rd line with John Henrion on right wing. Casey Thrush joined them on left wing.
~ Over the weekend, Sorkin played without a cast on his hand for the first time since he broke a bone in his hand against Bemidji State back in December.
~ Sorkin is clearly gaining strength in his hand and his confidence. He won a number of faceoffs, carried the puck with authority in the offensive end, and assisted on two of Henrion's goals.
~ Freshman Collin MacDonald saw his first action since the win against Northeastern on Feb. 1st.

UNH Cranks It Up Against UMass (Photo: Mike Lowry)
Game Highlights

First Period:
Best UNH Opportunities of 1st Period:

UNH held a sizable territorial edge in the 1st period and generated several Grade A opportunities. Two of the best were by John Henrion and Kevin Goumas.

Nick Sorkin was in a strong, back-checking position in the UNH end and intercepted a pass in the mid-slot.

Sorkin head-manned the puck to Casey Thrush just inside the blueline. Thrush passed to Henrion racing up ice on the right wing and sent him into the UMass zone with only one defender to beat.

Henrion accelerated into the faceoff circle to the left of UMass goalie Mastalerz and snapped a low, wrist shot. Mastalerz dropped into the butterfly position and flashed his right leg pad just in time to redirect the puck away from the goal mouth. It was one of several, outstanding pad saves by Mastalerz during the game.

At the 2:55 mark, Sorkin drew a high-sticking penalty and UNH went on its second power play of the period.

UNH sent out a newly configured power play unit with Goumas on right wing, Downing at center, and Block on left wing up front. TvR played the left point and Eric Knodel was on the right point.

TvR passed along the blueline to Knodel who moved to the top of the umbrella at the middle of the blueline. Knodel fed a pass to Goumas on the halfwall to Mastalerz' left.

Goumas advanced toward the net and dropped a pass back to Knodel. He faked a slap shot and passed to TvR near the faceoff dot to Mastalerz' right.

TvR threaded a cross-ice pass to Goumas at the opposite faceoff dot. Goumas one-timed a wrister which nearly beat Mastalerz but he saved it with his blocker.

Outstanding Back-Checking by UNH:
Throughout the first period and the entire game, the UNH defenders and forwards consistently got back into their own zone ahead of the UMass attackers. This prevented odd-man rushes.

One example came shortly after Goumas' prime scoring opportunity near the end of the period.

UMass broke out of their own end on a potential 3-on-2 but Goumas hustled through the neutral zone and caught up with the third UMass attacker. Goumas forced an errant pass which went wide of DeSmith.

Shots on Goal at the end of the 1st period: UNH 10, UMass 5.

Second Period:
When UMass scored their first goal in the first period on Friday night, it seemed to deflate UNH and energize the Minutemen. UNH came out of the locker room and played flat throughout the second period. There would be no repeat of that performance on Saturday. UNH was energized and got on the scoreboard early in the second period.

18:50 - UNH Goal: John Henrion (11th goal of the season).
Assists: Casey Thrush (9th assist of season), Nick Sorkin (12th assist of season)

Less than a minute into the 2nd period, Nick Sorkin dove and intercepted a UMass breakout pass just inside the UMass blueline. Casey Thrush gathered the loose puck and broke through the faceoff circle to the right of Mastalerz.

Thrush saw John Henrion rocketing toward the net on Mastalerz' left. Thrush laid a perfect pass onto Henrion's stick - he had just skated past the lone UMass defender.

Henrion one-timed the puck into the gaping hole over Mastalerz' glove. The team and the crowd exploded in relief and celebration. It was Henrion's second goal in two nights and he wasn't finished yet. UNH 1, UMass 0.

9:17 - UNH Goal: John Henrion (12th goal of the season).
Assists: Brett Kostolansky (7th assist of season), Casey Thrush (10th assist of season)

With 11 and 1/2 minutes left in the period, freshman defenseman Brett Pesce rushed through the neutral zone and into the UMass zone to the right of Mastalerz. Pesce quickly switched directions toward the net at the faceoff dot and drew a holding penalty.

With the UNH power play nearing an end, Casey Thrush gathered the loose puck behind the UMass goal. He had just fired a shot which barely missed the net. Thrush sent a pass up the wall to Kostolansky at the left point.

Kostolansky snapped a pass back down the halfwall to Henrion. Henrion made a strong move directly through the faceoff circle to the right of Mastalerz.

Just before Henrion reached the hashmark in the mid-slot, he fired one of his patented, wrist shots which beat Mastalerz high over his glove. UNH 2, UMass 0.

Third Period:
Entering the final period behind by 2 goals, UMass opened up their game with longer passes and more frequent rushes into the UNH end.

16:55: Huge DeSmith Save #1:

Umass controlled the puck in the UNH zone for over a minute. They managed to spring Connor Sheary loose behind DeSmith. He centered a pass to Branden Gracel parked immediately in front of DeSmith.

This time, DeSmith was perfectly positioned in the crease and paddled away two point blank shots. A UMass goal at that juncture might have shifted the momentum in their favor but DeSmith denied them.

13:54 - UNH Goal: Matt Willows (5th goal of the season).
Assists: Kevin Goumas (27th assist of season), Brett Kostolansky (8th assist of season)

Matt Willows capitalized on his promotion to the first line by scoring the goal which put the game out of reach.

Brett Kostolansky began the scoring play from inside the UNH zone. He sent a lead pass to Kevin Goumas at the redline.

Goumas saw Willows about to break into the UMass end alone. Goumas made a perfect, touch-pass and Willows galloped down the slot on a breakaway.

Fans who have followed Willows' career will remember that he lead the Eastern Junior Hockey League in scoring and was named the EJHL Offensive Player of the Year before coming to UNH. He has a quick release shot which often hovers just above the ice.

On this occasion, Willows beat Mastalerz just under his blocker. UNH 3, UMass 0.

9:12: Huge DeSmith Save #2:

Umass entered the UNH zone on a 3-on-2 break. Dan Correale hustled back to stick check the 3rd UMass attacker.

Sheary snapped a wrist shot from the midslot with Brett Pesce partially screening DeSmith.

DeSmith made one of his patented, glove-saves, snatching the puck as it was headed for the top corner of the net.

19:32 - UNH Goal: John Henrion Hat Trick
Assists: Casey Thrush (11th assist of season), Nick Sorkin (13th assist of season)

With 50 seconds left in the game, UMass pulled Mastalerz for an extra skater. UNH prevented them from getting a shot on goal.

UMass sent the puck around the dasher behind DeSmith and it came to Nick Sorkin just inside the UNH blueline.

Sorkin passed up to Casey Thrush racing through the left wing of the neutral zone. Just after Thrush crossed the UMass blueline, he saw a wide-open John Henrion at the top of the slot.

Thrush made a cross-ice pass which eluded the lone UMass defender and Henrion one-timed it into the empty net. UNH 4, UMass 0.

Final Shots on Goal: UNH 33, UMass 25.

Points of Interest

~ Video highlights of the goals are available courtesy of UNHAthletics.

~ One positive development for UNH going forward is the rising level of confidence of players such as Matt Willows, Dan Correale, and Nick Sorkin. Sorkin, in particular, is rounding his game into form just in time for the playoffs.

~ Unlike Friday night, UNH was very effective in protecting the scoring zone in front of Casey DeSmith. Invariably, there were 2 or 3 UNH players keeping the puck away from the low and mid-slot area.

~ UNH finishes up the 2012-13 regular season next Friday and Saturday night with "White Out the Whitt" games against Maine. Saturday's game will feature Seniors Night - always a special occasion.


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