Sunday, March 02, 2014

UNH Gets Physical, Downs Merrimack 5-2, Earns Home Ice

Kevin Goumas Joins 100 Assist Club

NORTH ANDOVER, MA - In a post-game interview Friday night, Brett Pesce described UNH's losing effort as "flat" and that Merrimack College "came out hard, they're a good team, they battle and we've got to be ready for tomorrow."

One key to Merrimack's dominant 4-2 victory was intense physical play in their own zone. Whenever UNH players attempted to move the puck in the offensive zone, there was a good chance a Warrior was going to lay a body check on them. The Wildcats were largely unable to maintain puck possession in the Merrimack end or to generate quality scoring opportunities. Merrimack also tore a page out of the University of Vermont's successful playbook by clogging the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap and shutting down UNH's transition game.

With the loss, UNH's chances of earning home ice in the upcoming Hockey East Quarterfinals dwindled. In fact, they needed a win in the final game of the regular season just to avoid the one-game elimination series. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Whether by design, happenstance, or both, UNH played aggressive and physical in their 5-2 victory Saturday night. In the first period alone, the typically penalty averse Wildcats were penalized 6 times for a total of 20 minutes. It was hard-nosed, sometimes chippy hockey that didn't immediately translate into goals. UNH trailed 1-0 midway into the second period. But their physicality changed the dynamic from the previous night and created an opening for a much needed win.

1st Period

8:46 - Merrimack Scores First - UNH 0, MC 1
~ Midway throught the first period, Maxim Gaudreault was penalized for kneeing (see third sequence in video above).
~ With two Warriors parked in front of Casey DeSmith, Quinn Gould knocked in a Mike Collins' feed from the behind the UNH net.

2nd Period

7:39 - Brett Pesce Power Play Goal - UNH 1, MC 1
~ Nearly 12 minutes into the second period, freshman Tyler Kelleher dug the puck out along the endboards behind Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta. Senior defenseman Brendan Ellis tried to stop Kelleher's progress but was penalized for holding.
~ For the second time in two nights, Brett Pesce scored UNH's first goal of the game on a power play. These video highlights show his Friday and Saturday night goals.

7:32 - Dalton Speelman Scores 7 Seconds Later - UNH 2, MC 1
~ On the ensuing faceoff after the Pesce goal, Dalton Speelman lead a 3-on-2 rush down the left wing into the Merrimack zone. Center Grayson Downing and right winger Collin Bourque joined him.
~ Speelman momentarily held the puck and the Merrimack defender went down to block a shot. Speelman lifted a wrist shot over the defender and past goalie Marotta.

00:39 - Nick Sorkin Scores Game-Winning Goal - UNH 3, MC 1
~ In the waning seconds of the second period, Matt Willows headmanned the puck to Nick Sorkin just short of the red line creating a 2-on-1 break.
~ Sorkin and Willows worked a perfect give and go and Sorkin beat Marotta over his blocker.

3rd Period

12:19 - Merrimack Gets to Within 1 Goal - UNH 3, MC 2
~ Casey DeSmith appeared to make the initial save on a Hampus Gustafsson shot from the mid-slot but Ben Bahe poked the puck free and into the back of the net.

6:57 - Kevin Goumas Nets Insurance Goal - UNH 4, MC 2
~ In a continuation of the physical battle between the teams, Casey Thrush and Kyle Singleton were sent to the penalty box for hitting after the whistle. This set up a 4-on-4 situation allowing for more open space in the small ice surface.
~ Sheer determination by Kevin Goumas, Grayson Downing, Eric Knodel, and Brett Pesce led to one of the biggest goals of the season.

1:28 - Sorkin Scores ENG Assisted by Goumas - UNH 5, MC 2
~ Trailing by 2 goals, Coach Dennehy pulled goalie Marotta for an extra skater. Matt Willows gathered a loose puck and carromed it off the sidewall to Goumas.
~ With the puck on his stick as he crossed the blueline, Goumas collected the 100th assist of his UNH career by flipping the puck to a wide-open Nick Sorkin.

DeSmith Does Yeoman's Work
~ In the small confines of the Lawler Arena rink, junior goalie Casey DeSmith faced 51 shots on goal and stopped 49. He, no doubt, will appreciate the two-week break.

A Look Ahead

With UNH winning on Saturday and both Maine and Northeastern being swept over the weekend, the Wildcats finished the regular Hockey East season in 4th place. They earned home ice in the quarterfinals and will face Northeastern in a best-of-three series on the weekend of March 14th. It's the first time UNH has earned home ice since the 2010-'11 season.


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