Thursday, January 01, 2015

UNH Splits Series With #12 Nebraska-Omaha: Game 1 Goal-by-Goal

Sophomore Tyler Kelleher
 1 Goal, 3 Assists
Senior Grayson Downing
 GWG Plus 2 Assists
Senior Casey Thrush
 1 G, 2 Assists

The first half of the 2014-15 season was an up and down affair for UNH. Considering they had 10 freshmen on the squad, including goalie Adam Clark, the Wildcats got off to a solid start winning two of its first 4 games. Back-to-back wins against Michigan State and Northeastern in early November earned the team a respectable record of 4-5-0. After top defenseman and Carolina Hurricanes' draft pick Brett Pesce was injured in the Providence College game, UNH lost 4 games and tied Boston College.

The weekend, non-conference games against Maine just prior to the mid-season break included some of the team's worst and best play. Following the 5-2 drubbing at the Verizon Wireless Arena, Head Coach Dick Umile said:
"You can't even think about winning a hockey game when you only play one period and we only played one was the only time we competed."
Prior to the loss to Maine in Manchester, Coach Umile had gone out of his way to highlight how the team continued to compete hard even when they lost. It was unquestionably the low point of the season.

The following night, UNH bounced back with a gutsy 7-4 win over Maine at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. After jumping out to a two-goal lead, UNH fell behind 3-4 by the end of two periods. To make matters worse, goalie Adam Clark broke a finger on his right hand - his stick hand - late in the second period. In the final stanza, Clark remained in the game, made 10 more saves, and the Wildcats scored 4 unanwered goals including a hat trick by Senior Alternate Captain Grayson Downing.

Following two weeks off, which included final exams week and trips home for Christmas, the Wildcats hopped on a plane and flew off for a two-game series against the University of Nebraska-Omaha. UNH fans witnessing the sagging record during the first half of the season (5-10-1) and polar opposite performances in the final two games against Maine, were left to wonder how the team would begin the second half. On the plus side, Brett Pesce was set to return to the lineup and Adam Clark's broken finger had time to recover. Additionally, goalie Danny Tirone enrolled for the second semester and was in uniform.

GAME 1 (Dec. 30)

Nebraska-Omaha 2, UNH 1 - OT

The UNH coaches appear to have settled on the top two forward lines as they begin the second half of the season. In the last Maine game, the first line was Eiserman-Poturalski-Willows and the second line was Thrush-Downing-Kelleher. In Game 1 against UNO, those line combinations were the same but the Downing line got the start. In his return to action, Brett Pesce was back as one of the starting defensemen, power play pointman, and penalty kill defender. Adam Clark made his 17th consecutive start - the only Division I freshman goalie to have started every game this season.

UNH's top line got the Wildcats on the board early in the first period on a goal by Casey Thrush. The UNH defense was effective throughout most of the game and only allowed one goal in regulation. After the game, UNO Head Coach Dean Blais said "their D kept us to the outside a lot of the time and their goalie played well".

Less than a minute into overtime, Matias Cleland fired a slap shot from the point and Casey Thrush took two close-in shots at two rebounds but the puck didn't get by UNO goalie Kirk Thompson. The overtime game-winner scored by Austin Ortega resulted, in part, from less than optimal back-checking by UNH. The same was true on UNO's lone goal during regulation.

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown


Casey Thrush-2 (Assisted by Grayson Downing-6)
3:12 of 1st Period - UNH 1, Nebraska-Omaha 0
~ A UNO defenseman mishandled a pass in his own end and senior Grayson Downing swooped in and picked up the puck.
~ Downing carried the puck behind the UNO goal and backhanded the puck between three Mavericks to Casey Thrush skating down the slot.
~ Thrush one-timed Downing's pass but Thompson made the initial save with his blocker. Thrush shot the rebound between Thompson's legs.

PERIOD 2 - No Scoring

Brett Pesce Bids
~ Each team limited the other to less than 10 shots on goal in the second period.
~ About 4 minutes into the second period, Brett Pesce demonstrated one of the reasons he's so valuable to his team. He joined the rush with speed, received a setup pass from Tyler Kelleher and whacked a shot that almost beat Thompson over his glove.
~ Then, Pesce circled back into the slot, received another setup from Kelleher, and just missed the post over Thompson's blocker.


Jake Randolph (From Vesel & O'Rourke)
1:02 of Period 2 - UNH 1, Nebraska-Omaha 1
~ As UNO transitioned through the neutral zone, three UNH players seemed to be in a good back-checking position at their own blueline.
~ As Tyler Vesel carried the puck into the UNH zone, he gained a half-stride on one UNH defender. The other two covered Justin Parizek on the right wing leaving Jake Randolph uncovered in the slot.
~ Adam Clark blocked the initial shot from Vesel but the rebound went to the open Randolph who knocked the puck over Clark's blocker.

Shane Eiserman Power Play Shots
~ A minute after UNO scored the tying goal, UNH went on it's only power play of the game.
~ After the faceoff, Brett Pesce did an outstanding job keeping the puck from leaving the UNO zone then he moved to his familiar position at the top of the umbrella setup. From there, he flipped a pass down to freshman Andrew Poturalski to the right of UNO goalie Thompson.
~ Poturalski placed a cross-slot pass on Shane Eiserman's stick to Thompson's left. Eiserman slid one shot that Thompson barely stopped with his left skate. Eiserman poked at the loose puck laying in the crease behind Thompson but Brian Cooper made a goal saving play by knocking the puck away.


Casey Thrush Overtime Bids
~ 30 seconds into overtime, Matias Cleland fired a wrist shot from the point. The puck bounced off Tyler Kelleher in the low slot and went to Casey Thrush in close to Thompson's left.
~ Thrush fired one shot that Thompson blocked and knocked the rebound at Thompson again, but he made two key stops.

Austin Ortega (From Vesel & Randolph)
3:45 of Overtime - UNH 1, Nebraska-Omaha 2
~ With just over a minute left in overtime, Vesel and Ortega entered the UNH zone with defensemen Brett Pesce and John Furgele positioned between them and the UNH net.
~ Then Vesel accomplished something that's rarely seen. He managed to carry the puck around Pesce and gain a split second advantage. It's quite likely that Pesce's five-week layoff as he recovered from a knee injury was a factor.
~ As Vesel crossed the goal line to Clark's left, he sent the puck back out in front. The puck went by Jake Randolph to the partially open Austin Ortega who wristed it under Clark's glove for the game-winner.

On New Years Eve, UNH bounced back with a dominating win in Game 2 of the Nebraska-Omaha series. Look for a full report on the blog tomorrow.


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