Sunday, March 10, 2013

UNH Ties Maine on Senior Night - Next Stop Providence

Congratulations to UNH Seniors (Photo: Mike Lowry)

DURHAM, NH - On the night to honor seniors Connor Hardowa, Greg Burke, Brett Kostolansky, John Henrion, Scott Pavelski, Austin Block, and Mathew Myers, UNH salvaged yet another come-from-behind tie, this time against the University of Maine. Prior to the game, the Wildcats had an outside chance of sharing the Hockey East Regular Season Title. They needed to win and have UMass-Lowell and Providence tie in their final game. Home ice for the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Tournament was more easily in reach. A UNH win would have guaranteed it and a tie might have worked.

UNH Ties Maine 4-4 (Photo: Mike Lowry)
Though UNH earned a 4-4 tie on an Eric Knodel goal late in the third period, it wasn't enough. The White Out the Whitt game late Saturday afternoon was one of the most exciting of the season. Despite being on spring break, avid student supporters nearly filled three sections of the arena. There were few empty seats and the cheering level over the final half of the third period and in overtime rivaled those of the good old days at Snively Arena.

UNH jumped ahead 2-0 on a goal by senior Scott Pavelski (4th goal of the season) off a beautiful pass from freshman Maxim Gaudreault (5th assist of the season) followed by a Gaudreault goal (3rd of the season). UNH built another 2-goal lead late in the second period with a goal by Grayson Downing (13th goal of the season).

Maine stormed back with 3 unanswered goals to go up 4-3 with 13 minutes left in regulation. Eric Knodel's game-tying goal (10th goal of the season) came on a power play with 3 and 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The UNH power play unit of Block-Downing-Goumas with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Knodel moved the puck smartly utilizing an umbrella setup. Knodel, positioned at the middle of the blueline passed down to Goumas in the faceoff circle to the left of Maine goalie Martin Ouellette. Goumas moved toward the net then passed back to Knodel who blasted a slap shot past Ouellette.
Here are the video highlights provided by hockeyeastonline.

The first two objectives the team established for the 2012-13 season - the Regular Season Title and home-ice in the Quarterfinals - were not met. When UNH was ranked #1 in the nation on December 3rd, both goals were well within reach. Inconsistent team defense and goal-scoring in the face of stiffer competition in the second half of the season have forced the team to accept the disappointments and refocus on the prizes still on the table.

UNH (Overall: 18-9-7. Hockey East: 13-8-6) finished the regular season with 32 points which placed them in a three-way tie with Boston University and Providence College for third place. Lowell finished in first place with 34 points and BC landed in second place with 33 points. UNH swept the 3-game season series against #1 Lowell, tied the series with #2 BC, and won 2 out of 3 games against #3 BU. However, losing the season series with Providence 0-2-1 cost UNH the final home-ice slot.

Next Stop Providence

To earn a trip to the TD Bank Garden and the Hockey East Semifinals in two weeks, UNH must travel to Providence next weekend and win 2 out of 3 games. The regular season series between UNH and PC couldn't have been much closer. The first game at the Whittemore Center on Jan. 19th was billed as a duel between two top goalies Casey DeSmith and Jon Gillies. Neither played their best as PC held on to win 6-5. UNH staged a comeback late in the third period - a recurring pattern - scoring two goals in the last 5 minutes.

In Game 2, also in Durham, UNH's top-ranked penalty kill unit gave up two goals and UNH trailed by a goal midway through the third period. Gillies made an impossible save, robbing Kevin Goumas with 5 minutes left. UNH persisted and Scott Pavelski tied it up, 3-3 in the waning minutes.

The rubber game of the regular season series was played with playoff intensity. UNH travelled to Schneider Arena for a game postponed by a snow storm the previous week. UNH played tight team defense and Casey DeSmith was solid. The game featured an amazing save by DeSmith on a penalty shot in the second period. Each team had quality scoring chances and UNH outshot PC 37-34. With less than 3 minutes left in regulation, UNH made an awkward line change allowing Stefan Demopoulos to jump onto the ice and sneak in behind the UNH defense for the game-winning goal.

At this stage of the season, UNH and PC are evenly-matched in several ways. UNH outshot Providence 42 to 27 in the initial game but that was an outliar. In the last two games, the shots on goal were 44-42 and 37-34, slightly in favor of UNH. DeSmith and Gillies - friends and former teammates on the USHL's Indiana Ice - have nearly identical goalie stats in Hockey East competition. DeSmith has posted slightly better numbers - 2.04 vs 2.17 GAA; .923 vs .929 Save%. UNH has scored slightly more goals per game than PC (3.00 vs 2.78) and allowed fewer goals (2.15 vs 2.33).

Providence has played better than UNH since the holiday break. PC's record over their last 16 Hockey East games is 8-4-4. UNH has played slightly below .500 hockey with a record of 5-6-5. Four out of the 6 loses were by a single goal.

UNH has the edge in special teams - often the determining factor in playoff hockey. UNH's power play has improved in recent weeks and is ranked #2 in Hockey East. The Wildcat's penalty kill has been dominant in the nation throughout the season. They're currently ranked #1 in Hockey East, effectively killing off the penalty 92.3% of the time.

NCAA Tournament

As of today, UNH is no longer projected to be the #1 seed in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH. They are currently projected as the #2 seed though the positioning is fluid and likely to change over the next two weeks.

UNH last played in the Hockey East Championship Game 6 years ago and has not been to the NCAA Frozen Four for 10 years. Both are still on this season's to do list.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Web Site Hit Counter

Firefox 2