Sunday, November 10, 2013

UNH Runs Away With 9-0 Win Over UMass

AMHERST, MA - If I had to point to one play which exemplified UNH's determined, dominant effort tonight against UMass, it would be the 9th goal of the evening scored by junior Grayson Downing. With just under 5 minutes left in the game and UNH blitzing UMass 8-0, a Minuteman side-swiped Downing's leg as he crossed the blueline into the UMass zone. Grayson spun around, hustled down to the corner to the left of freshman goalie Mac Haight, and threw a heavy hit on the UMass puck carrier. The puck squirted free, Downing gathered it and danced toward the net. A few dekes later and Downing flipped a backhand shot on goal from close range. The puck bounced off Haight and Downing poked the rebound into the net.

13 goals scored over the course of back-to-back games and only 1 goal allowed. After enduring the frustration of dropping 3 one-goal games to highly-ranked Minnesota, Michigan and UMass-Lowell, this UNH team is starting to gel. Head Coach Umile and Offensive Coach Borek have juggled the forward lines in recent games in an effort to spark some goal-scoring. All four forward lines clicked over the weekend.

In an interview shown in between periods during Friday night's game, senior Kevin Goumas said that he was trying to add more goal-scoring punch to his well-established play-making ability. Having him play left wing on the first line with Downing at center and freshman Tyler Kelleher at right wing through the RPI game was part of that strategy. Early in the Friday night matchup against UMass, Goumas played left wing with Nick Sorkin at center and Matt Willows on right wing.

Although playing left wing might have provided more goal-scoring opportunities for Goumas, it became clear that UNH needed his play-making and passing abilities as a centerman. Goumas shifted to center in the second period and Sorkin shifted to left wing. This plays to both players' strengths. Sorkin is most effective when Goumas feeds him in full-stride or when positioned in the slot. At center, Goumas' time of puck-possession is maximized allowing him to make plays anywhere in the offensive zone.

#3 UNH Star - Kevin Goumas
Goumas the play-maker and goal-scorer came to play at the Mullins Center tonight. On UNH's first goal, Goumas fed sophomore defenseman Brett Pesce at the top of the slot. Pesce fired a shot and Kelleher stuffed the rebound home past freshman goalie Alex Wakaluk, a replacement for injured goalie Steve Mastalerz.

A couple minutes into the second period, Goumas zipped from the top of the faceoff circle to Wakaluk's right directly into the low slot, fired a shot which Wakaluk deflected with his blocker, then one-timed the rebound from a sharp angle to Wakaluk's right. UNH 5, UMass 0.

Finally, Goumas earned the helper on Nick Sorkin's goal late in the second period. Matt Willows carried the puck up the center of the ice and fed Goumas at the top of the slot. Goumas carried the puck diagonally, causing the UMass goalie to commit to his left, and Goumas flipped a backhand pass to Sorkin near the open, right-side of the net. It was UNH's 7th goal of the night and Sorkin's 4th of the season.

#2 UNH Star - Tyler Kelleher
Tyler grew up playing hockey in Longmeadow, MA, just 30 miles down Interstate 91. He played his sophomore year at Deerfield Academy. Both towns were well represented in the crowd at the Mullins Center and Kelleher put on a show for them.

Before tonight, Kelleher had been in a bit of a goal-scoring drought. He scored his first NCAA goal against Clarkson in the first game of the season. His second NCAA goal came just 59 seconds after the puck dropped at the Mullins Center. For a player of modest stature, Kelleher doesn't hesitate to maneuver, with or without the puck, in the area around the crease. He'll get his share of goals cleaning up rebounds.

As the leading scorer for two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Kelleher primarily played center. His play-making abilities were evident on UNH's third and sixth goals.

Late in the first period, sophomore defenseman Harry Quast broke out of the UNH zone and made a long, lead pass to Kelleher. Tyler carried the puck over the UMass blueline and through the faceoff circle to Wakaluk's left. After drawing Wakaluk out to meet him, Kelleher slipped a forehand pass to Downing who buried it in the open, right side of the net.

Kelleher's second assist of the night - his fourth of the season - came with just under 5 minutes left in the second period. Freshman defenseman Matias Cleland earned his first NCAA point on a head-man pass to Kelleher in the UMass zone. Tyler made a slick pass to Downing - this time skating to the goalie's left side - and Grayson finished off the play for his second goal of the game and third goal of the season. It is a pleasure to watch Kelleher and Downing pass to each other in the offensive zone.

#1 UNH Star - Grayson Downing
Last season, as a sophomore, Downing lead the Wildcats in goal-scoring with 15. Prior to the Friday night game against UMass, Downing had been getting plenty of goal-scoring bids - 18 shots on goal in 7 games - but had scored only once. With his hat trick on Saturday, Downing is now tied with Goumas and Sorkin for the goal-scoring lead with 4.

Honorable Mention - The Thrush-Smith-Silengo Line
In the 4-1 win on Friday night, the newly constituted third line posted a combined 5 points - Casey Thrush, 1 assist; Kyle Smith, 1 goal and 1 assist; Jeff Silengo, 2 assists. They dominated many of their shifts in both games as the threesome excel on the forecheck and backcheck. The line also features two of the best faceoff men on the team in Smith and Silengo. An effective checking line who can score the occasional goal is just what UNH needs from it's third line.



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