Monday, February 09, 2015

UNH Guts Out 6-3 Win Over #17 Vermont: Goal-by-Goal

Freshman Andrew Poturalski
2 Goals; Hockey East Rookie of the Week
Sophomore Matias Cleland
1 Goal, 2 Assists
Sophomore Tyler Kelleher
1 Goal, 2 Assists

BURLINGTON, VT - UNH's comeback victory on a snowy evening at the Gutterson Fieldhouse was, and will continue to be, memorable for a number of reasons. After the 17th-ranked Vermont Catamounts downed the Wildcats 5-2 on Friday night, UNH jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on Saturday thanks to two goals by freshman center Andrew Poturalski. UNH maintained the lead until midway through the second period. That's when the young squad was confronted with a series of unfortunate events that would test their mettle for the remainder of the game and, very likely, for the rest of the 2014-15 season.

Ten minutes into the second stanza, the two teams each had a player in the penalty box and were skating 4-on-4. Freshman defenseman John Furgele passed the puck ahead to junior Kyle Smith as they lead a rush into the UVM zone. Smith's one-timer was kicked away by UVM goalie Brody Hoffman. Matias Cleland flipped the rebound back at Hoffman who kicked it away. That's when Smith cross-checked Hoffman in the back and knocked him face-down onto the ice. Hoffman got up and skated to the bench giving UVM an extra attacker. Moments later, UVM scored it's first goal.

With Smith in the penalty box, UVM commenced its second consecutive man advantage. Senior Alternate Captain and UNH's leading goal scorer Grayson Downing took the center-ice faceoff. Up until that moment, Downing had tallied 14 goals (including 2 game-winners) and 10 assists on the season and had recently scored his 100th point as a UNH Wildcat. Moments after the faceoff, Grayson Downing suffered a serious injury to his lower left leg (probably his ankle). From my rink-side vantage point at the other end of the ice, I did not see how Downing was injured. An archived video of the game is not currently available. On the audio archive from the Wildcat Sports Network, Dan Parkhurst and Peter Webster announced that Downing was taken down at the blue line and hit the boards awkwardly. Whatever caused Grayson Downing's injury, it was obvious that his lower left leg had been hurt and he was in an extraordinary amount of pain. After several minutes lying on the ice and being examined by both the UNH and UVM trainers, Downing was assisted off the ice and down the runway to the UNH locker room. He was not bearing any weight on his left leg. As of the time of this posting, there has been no formal announcement on the nature or extent of Downing's injury.

Grayson Downing is not only a top scorer for the Wildcats, he is also their top penalty killer. With him out of the game and Smith sitting in the penalty box, UVM tied the game 2-2 on another power play goal. Less than 4 minutes later, freshman defenseman Rich Boyd was penalized for hooking. Moments later on the UVM power play, Kyle Smith cross-checked a UVM player and was penalized yet again. At the beginning of the UVM 5-on-3 advantage, UNH freshman goalie Danny Tirone made two huge saves. As bad luck would have it, Matt Willows broke his stick giving UVM a de facto 5-on-2 advantage. UVM promptly scored and took a 3-2 lead into the dressing room.

Down a goal and down a top player, UNH could have folded their tent but they didn't. Instead, they scored 4 unanswered goals in the final period. Defenseman Matias Cleland began the resurgence with a slap shot moments after a UNH power play had expired. Freshman Michael McNicholas initiated the scoring play by winning the faceoff. McNicholas, playing in only his 8th NCAA game, moved up to center the first line with Casey Thrush and Matt Willows after Grayson Downing left the game. He also continued to center the fourth line with Jamie Hill and freshman Jason Salvaggio. McNicholas played with poise, won 9 out of 16 faceoffs, scored an assist, had a shot on goal, and finished the game with a +1 rating. On this scoring play, Jason Salvaggio reached in to gather the puck after McNicholas won the faceoff and slid a pass back to Cleland at the right point. It was Salvaggio's first NCAA point. UNH had tied the score 3-3.

The energized UNH squad took the lead for good on a power play goal by senior Alternate Captain Casey Thrush. UNH's leading scorer Tyler Kelleher added an insurance goal 3 minutes later on a pretty, forehand-to-backhand deke on goalie Hoffman. To say that Kelleher has had a breakout sophomore season would be an understatement. He is tied for 4th in scoring among Hockey East players with 10 goals and 19 assists. With 6 games remaining in the regular season, Kelleher has already nearly doubled his freshman year production (5 goals, 11 assists).

With just over 2 minutes left in regulation, UVM pulled goalie Hoffman for an extra skater. Tirone kicked out a save and Casey Thrush tapped the puck to Matt Willows in the mid-slot. Willows raced down the ice and buried a sharp-angle wrist shot past a sprawling Mike Paliotta into the empty net. The Wildcats skated away with a gutsy 6-3 victory. Freshman goalie Danny Tirone finished with 29 saves and improved his record to 5-2-0.

It seems likely that UNH will play at least some of the final 6 games of the regular season without Grayson Downing - a vital team leader and second leading scorer. Just over one year ago, UNH lost its top defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk with a broken left ankle. He never played another game in a UNH uniform. Needless to say, UNH fans are hoping for a better fate for Grayson Downing.

If UNH enters the Hockey East Playoffs without Grayson Downing, then the younger players will need to step in and step up. Fortunately, the freshman and sophomore classes have been key contributors this season. They have accounted for 106 out of UNH's 215 total points. Freshman Andrew Poturalski was just named the Hockey East Rookie of the Week for the second time this season. Freshman Warren Foegele won that award last week. Two weeks ago, freshman goalie Danny Tirone was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week. On January 1st, Tyler Kelleher was named Hockey East Player of the Week. The team will face a stern test next weekend in a home-and-home series against #2 Boston University.

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown


Andrew Poturalski-10 PP (Assisted by Tyler Kelleher-18 & Matias Cleland-5)
13:25 of 1st Period - UNH 1, Vermont 0
~ Tyler Kelleher carried the puck down the right wing with Dan Correale on his left on a 2-on-2 break.
~ Kelleher saw a trailing Andrew Poturalski streaking down the slot and sent him a pass that he one-timed over UVM goalie Brody Hoffman's glove.

Andrew Poturalski-11 (Assisted by Tyler Kelleher-19 & Cameron Marks-7)
17:38 of 1st Period - UNH 2, Vermont 0
~ Freshman Andrew Poturalski carried the puck down the right wing on a 3-on-3 rush with Kelleher and Correale.
~ Immediately after Kelleher skated in front of Hoffman, Poturalski snapped a wrister between Hoffman's pads.


Kyle Smith Penalty
10:15 of 2nd Period - UNH 2, Vermont 0
~ With UNH's Cameron Marks and UVM's Dan Senkbeil in the penalty box, the teams skated 4-on-4. Freshman defenseman John Furgele and junior Kyle Smith entered the UVM zone on a 2-on-1 break.
~ Furgele sent Smith in alone with a lead pass but UVM goalie Hoffman made the intial save of Smith's shot on goal. Matias Cleland flipped the rebound back at Hoffman who kicked it away. That's when Smith cross-checked Hoffman and knocked him over.
~ Hoffman skated to the bench giving UVM an extra attacker. Moments later, UVM scored it's first goal.

Mike Paliotta PP (From Fallon & Turk)
10:36 of Period 2 - UNH 2, Vermont 1
~ Moments after Kyle Smith cross-checked goalie Hoffman to the ice and UVM sent in an extra attacker, UVM Captain Mike Paliotta rushed the puck out of the UVM zone.
~ UVM set up in the UNH zone, Fallon sent a drop pass to Paliotta at the top of the faceoff circle to the right of UNH goalie Danny Tirone.
~ Paliotta's slap shot through traffic beat Tirone over his blocker.

Grayson Downing Seriously Injured
10:50 of 2nd Period - UNH 2, Vermont 1
~ With Smith in the penalty box, Vermont began its second consecutive man advantage. Shortly after Grayson Downing took the center-ice faceoff, he was apparently checked into the boards in front of the UVM bench. What happened after that is not yet clear.
~ The voices of UNH hockey, Dan Parkhurst and Peter Webster, announced that Downing was taken down at the blue line and hit the boards awkwardly. Downing lay on the ice, rolling from side to side in obvious pain, for several minutes.
~ After being examined by the UNH and UVM trainers, Downing was gingerly assisted up off the ice by defensemen Matias Cleland and Cameron Marks. As they supported Downing under each of his arms, the three very slowly advanced off the ice. Downing was baring all of his weight on his right leg and skate. As they passed in front of me, Grayson Downing was obviously in an extraordinary amount of pain.

Kevin Irwin PP (From Stenerson & Markison)
11:43 of Period 2 - UNH 2, Vermont 2
~ Of course, the loss of Grayson Downing meant UNH had to confront the second consecutive UVM man advantage without the leader of its top penalty kill unit.
~ UNH did manage to kill off about a minute of the power play but then UVM set up a passing play in the faceoff circle to Tirone's left.
~ Markison passed to Stenerson at the goal line who passed to Irwin in the low slot. Matias Cleland was in a position to defend but Irwin zipped a quick wrister low past Tirone's skate.

Colin Markison PP (From Luuko & Paliotta)
15:10 of Period 2 - UNH 2, Vermont 3
~ With Rich Boyd in the penalty box for hooking and Kyle Smith for cross-checking, UVM held a two-man advantage.
~ After Tirone made a nice kick save with his right skate and a glove save, Matt Willows broke his stick. That allowed Luuko a free pass to Markison in the mid-slot. Brett Pesce dove down to block the shot but it went past him and Tirone.


Matias Cleland-5 (Assisted by Jason Salvaggio-1 & Michael McNicholas-3)
6:33 of 3rd Period - UNH 3, Vermont 3
~ The Wildcats started to claw their way back a few seconds their first power play of the final period expired. Freshman Michael McNicholas won a faceoff to the right of UVM goalie Hoffman and fellow freshman Jason Salvaggio reached in and zipped a pass back to Matias Cleland at the left point.
~ Cleland one-timed a slap shot that beat Hoffman cleanly past his left skate.

Casey Thrush-5 PP (Assisted by Warren Foegele-6 & Brett Pesce-4)
12:09 of 3rd Period - UNH 4, Vermont 3
~ With UNH on it's 5th power play of the game, Brett Pesce took a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle to Hoffman's left. Warren Foegele, positioned on the goal-line, gathered the rebound with the back of his stick, calmly flipped to his forehand, and centered a pass to Casey Thrush.
~ Thrush one-timed a wrister from the low slot over Hoffman's outstretched, right arm.

Tyler Kelleher-12 (Assisted by Brett Pesce-5 & Dan Correale-7)
15:07 of 3rd Period - UNH 5, Vermont 3
~ Brett Pesce carried the puck across the UVM blueline, saw Kelleher wide-open skating down the slot, and sent him a tape-to-tape pass.
~ Kelleher deked Hoffman with a forehand-to-backhand move and lifted the puck into the open net.

Matt Willows-13 (Assisted by Casey Thrush-14 & Matias Cleland-6)
18:43 of 3rd Period - UNH 6, Vermont 3
~ With the UVM net empty, Tirone kicked out a save and Casey Thrush tapped the puck to Matt Willows breaking out of the UNH zone.
~ Willows rushed the puck through center ice and into the UVM end. He skated wide to the left to evade a diving Mike Paliotta and buried a sharp-angle shot.
~ If you look closely at the replay, you'll see Paliotta, the UVM Captain, slash his stick at Willows' skate after the goal. The "highly-touted" Paliotta was on the ice for 3 of the 4 unanswered goals that UNH scored in the final period.

With the victory, UNH improved its Hockey East record is to 5-10-1. They are in 10th place in Hockey East one point behind Maine and Merrimack. Overall, UNH is 10-16-2. Vermont's record in Hockey East is now 8-7-1 and they are in 6th place. Their overall record is 16-10-2. Next up for the Wildcats is a home-and-home series with 2nd-ranked Boston University.


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