Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Goalie Danny Tirone Brings Quick, Athletic Style to UNH

Danny Tirone Set to Join UNH Roster

When goaltender Danny Tirone verbally committed to UNH back in March, 2013, he had just completed his senior season with the Loomis-Chaffee School and been named the Prep School Player of the Year by US Hockey Report. In my interview with Tirone (Pronounced Ti-row-knee) at the time, he described the plan to play a couple of seasons, probably in the United States Hockey League, and enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2015.

A couple months later, Tirone was drafted by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL and he went on to a successful rookie season last year. In 44 regular season games, Tirone posted a 2.63 goals against average (8th best in USHL) and a .917 save percentage (6th best in USHL).

Throughout this past summer, UNH's plan for an orderly goalie succession was on track. Incoming freshman Adam Clark, a 6'5" veteran goalie from the British Columbia Hockey League, would be the backup for senior Casey DeSmith. Danny Tirone would play one more season with Cedar Rapids and come to UNH next fall. However, that plan was sidetracked on August 31st when DeSmith was arrested by Durham Police and charged with domestic assault and resisting arrest. The University subsequently suspended DeSmith from the UNH hockey team pending further investigation.

Adam Clark became the #1 goalie and has started every game since the UNH season began. Meanwhile, preliminary steps were taken to admit Tirone to UNH for the second semester. Head Coach and General Manager of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Mark Carlson, allowed Tirone (his #1 goalie) to come back to the Northeast and play for the Junior Bruins in the USPHL. As expected, Tirone has started nearly every game for the Junior Bruins (20 out of 28) and maintained a high standard of performance. His record was 14-5-1 with a goals against average of 2.24 and save percentage of .929.

On December 6th, Coach Umile announced that senior goalie Casey DeSmith, would not be returning to the team:
“Our student-athletes here at UNH are held to a higher standard than the general student body, and because of Casey’s actions the weekend of August 31, I’ve made the decision to dismiss Casey from the team.”
A December 12th press release provided by the parents of DeSmith presented their account of how the accusations were addressed in the Dover District Court and before the University's disciplinary hearing. DeSmith will reportedly be allowed to return to UNH as a student.

Last Wednesday, I traveled to the New England Sports Center to watch Danny Tirone play in his final game with the Junior Bruins. They downed the Islanders Hockey Club (fellow UNH recruit Brendan van Riemsdyk plays for them) 4-1 and Tirone stopped 45 out of 46 shots on goal. It was my first opportunity to see Tirone play in person. In the interview back when he committed to UNH, I asked him about his strengths. He said:
"I think that the strongest aspects of my goaltending skills are my speed, my athleticism, and my overall compete level when I am in the net."
In this sequence of highlights from last Wednesday's game, notice how quickly Tirone skates laterally to block and control the puck:

On these plays, Tirone's athleticism is evidenced by how quickly he can go down into the butterfly position and spring back up:

Danny Tirone is listed as 5'10" and 168 pounds. That's a stark contrast with Adam Clark who is 6'5", 220 pounds. Needless to say, it's relatively easy for Clark to cover large sections of the net when a shooter is approaching him head-on. Tirone compensates for his smaller stature, in part, by standing tall and holding his catching glove away from his body:

The contrasts between Adam Clark and Danny Tirone may translate into an effective goalie tandem for UNH over the next few years. At the risk of oversimplification, Clark is a big goalie who economizes his movement in the crease while Tirone uses his quickness to cover the net space. It will be interesting to see how the UNH coaches utilize Clark and Tirone during the second half of this season and the subsequent three years.

Over the past decade, UNH coaches have identified a #1 goalie who played the bulk of minutes and a backup who played in the occasional game. Even when two talented goalies were on the roster, one was in net for the majority of games. For example, in the 2007-08 season, senior Kevin Regan played in 32 games while sophomore Brian Foster only played in 6. Both were NHL draft picks - Regan a 9th round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2003 and Foster a 5th round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2005.

Will UNH change the way it utilizes its goalies over the next four years? The combination of Clark and Tirone is relatively unique. They are close to the same age - Clark is 21 and Tirone is 20. An unpredictable set of circumstances has lead both to be freshmen in the same season. They are very different goalies both in stature and style. They are even exact opposites in handedness - Clark catches with his left hand and Tirone with his right.

At the extreme, one can imagine UNH playing Clark in one game of a weekend series and Tirone in the other. The opposing team would need to adapt their scoring strategies, to some degree, from one night to the next. Granted, that type of goalie tandem is rarely used at the NCAA or professional levels. Regardless of how Clark and Tirone are ultimately utilized, it is true that UNH will have more options with them both on the roster.


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