UNH's Adam Clark and Kyle Smith Excel in One-Goal Loss to NU
In the words of the Boston Globe, freshman UNH goalie Adam Clark and Northeastern senior Clay Witt put on "goaltending clinic" last night at the Matthews Arena. Over the first two periods, both held their opponents scoreless with Clark rejecting 16 shots on goal and Witt stopping 26. Both made several outstanding saves and the goalie's best friend - the post - helped Witt twice.
In the first period, Adam Clark showed remarkable agility, particularly for a 6'5" goalie, sliding post-to-post to rob Dallen Hedges at the 10-minute mark and then, Kevin Roy two minutes later.
The second period saw UNH turning up the pressure offensively and only allowing 5 shots on goal. Three of Northeastern's shots came from the faceoff circle to the left of Adam Clark. With 9 minutes left in the period, freshman Nolan Stevens (1 goal, 1 assist, 5 SOG) snapped a point-blank shot that Clark smothered in his chest. Less than a minute later, Clark made a similar save of a Mike Szmatula back-hander. Finally, in the waning minutes, Clark flashed his blocker to stop a close in shot from freshman Brendan Collier (a transfer from Boston University).
In the three games leading up to last night, sophomore Tyler Kelleher was on a scoring tear. He posted three goals, including the game-winner against Michigan State, and added three assists including two in UNH's 5-3 win over Northeastern on Friday night. With 10:53 remaining in Period 2 at Matthews Arena, Kelleher nearly broke the scoreless tie when he rang the post behind Clay Witt. Collin MacDonald, playing left wing on UNH's third line, in place of Warren Foegele (out with a concussion), started a 2-on-1 break by passing to Kelleher at the red line. Tyler broke down the right side and snapped a wrister over Witt's glove. Moments later, Kelleher fired another quality bid, this time a back-hander from the faceoff circle to Witt's right.
Last season, Kyle Smith was named the Most Improved Player on the UNH squad. In both Northeastern games, Smith centered a newly configured first line between Casey Thrush and Matt Willows. Shortly after Kelleher hit the post, Smith rang it again. Smith effectively forechecked, gathered the puck, and fed a pass out to sophomore defenseman Matias Cleland at the left point. Cleland fired a one-timer, slap shot just wide of the net to Witt's right. Smith collected the rebound off the backboards and wristed a shot from a tight angle to Witt's left. The puck hit the inside of the right post and caromed into the slot. Smith and his linemates tried to bang the rebound home but a quick whistle ended the play. Smith's shot off the post warranted a review by the referees but the game remained scoreless.
Two minutes into the final stanza, Kyle Smith tallied the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 break with Matt Willows. The play started in the Northeastern end when Alternate Captain Casey Thrush blocked a shot, Willows gathered the loose puck and raced up the left side of the ice. As Willows and Smith entered the NU zone, Willows feathered a cross-slot pass to the wide-open Smith who buried it past Clay Witt. The timely goal was Smith's first of the 2014-15 season.
After Northeastern tied the game a minute later on a goal by Ryan Rosenthal (a transfer from Vermont), Adam Clark kept the game close with several more big saves. Rosenthal threatened to score again at the 14:31 mark but Clark stopped the puck with his chest and pounced to cover up the rebound. Less than a minute later, Northeastern went on a power play and Clark turned aside two shots as the power play ended. NU's Nolan Stevens scored seconds later on an outstanding pass from his older brother John. Clark kept UNH within reach with 3:30 left in the game when he turned aside a shot from the slot by Dalen Hedges.
So far in his freshman season at UNH, Adam Clark has allowed 27 goals in 10 games (GAA=2.76) which places him in 9th place among Hockey East goalies. Leave out his worst performance in which he surrendered 6 goals to UMass Lowell and Clark's goals against average would go down to 2.33. Clark's save percentage of .894 is 11th among Hockey East goaltenders. If not for the UMass Lowell game, his save percentage would be .911. Given that Adam Clark was expected to be the backup goalie to senior Casey DeSmith this season, one would conclude that he has done an admirable job. If his play against Northeastern is an indicator, then he is becoming more effective as the season progresses. Next weekend will be a stern test as UNH faces Providence College, and another tall goalie in the person of Jon Gillies, for two games at the Whittemore Center.