UNH Sweeps UConn Again, Advances to HE Quarterfinals: Goal-by-Goal
DURHAM, NH - The hottest team in Hockey East is killing it. Following a 5-2 victory on Friday night, the UNH Wildcats eliminated the persistent UConn Huskies from the Hockey East Playoffs on Saturday. Give Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh and his players credit - they tightened up their defensive play and sophomore goalie Rob Nichols, who started in all but one game this season, was outstanding.
Although UNH outshot UConn 11-6, 19-3, and 14-10 across the three periods, the teams were scoreless until midway through the final stanza. That's when the fourth line of Kyle Smith at center, Jamie Hill on right wing, and Jason Salvaggio on left wing came through with one of the biggest goals of the season. Junior defenseman Harry Quast set the scoring play in motion with a stretch pass from inside the UNH zone across the red line to the flying Jamie Hill. Nichols made one of his incredible saves on Hills' shot but Smith followed along down the slot and banged the rebound home.
In the waning minutes of the game, UConn desperately tried to get Nichols off the ice for an extra skater but UNH kept the puck hemmed in the neutral zone and the UConn end. With just under a minute to go, Captain Matt Willows, swooped behind the UConn net, intercepted a clearing attempt by Nichols, and fed a backhand pass to Grayson Downing at the top of faceoff circle. Downing toe-dragged the puck around a defender and sniped a shot into the tiny opening over Nichols left shoulder.
Freshman goalie Danny Tirone finished the game with 19 saves and registered his second shutout in the last three games. He has only allowed 5 goals in the last 6 UNH games.
UNH, who also swept UConn in a home-and-home series two weeks, has now won 7 games in a row dating back to their 4-3 victory over Boston University - currently the #1 seed in the Hockey East Playoffs and the #3 team in the USCHO national poll. Since their gutsy, come-from-behind 6-3 victory at Vermont in early February, UNH has won 8 out of 9 games.
They now await the outcome of two remaining games of the opening round - Maine at Vermont and UMass at Notre Dame. Because UNH was seeded #8 in the Hockey East Tournament and #11 seed Merrimack has eliminated #6 Northeastern, the Wildcats will not face BU in the quarterfinal round. If both Maine and UMass lose on Sunday, UNH will face #2 seed Providence. If Maine wins and UMass loses, or vice versa, UNH will face #3 Boston College. If Maine and UMass win, then UNH will play #4 seed UMass-Lowell. In any event, the 2014-15 UNH Wildcats have played their final game at the Whittemore Center. Sadly, seniors Jay Camper, Grayson Downing, Ryan Randall, Casey Thrush, and Matt Willows will not wear the UNH home white jerseys onto the Whittemore ice again.
Goal-by-Goal BreakdownSeveral of UConn goalie Rob Nichols' 42 saves were of the incredible variety. I've included video clips of some of the them.
Kyle Smith's Redirect
2:00 of 1st Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Jamie Hill's Tester 5:00 of 1st Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Tyler Kelleher's Bid 8:20 of 1st Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Casey Thrush Wrister 14:01 of 1st Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Casey Thrush Point Blank Shots 18:30 of 1st Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Harry Quast Testers 4:37 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Jason Salvaggio Wrister 15:30 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Matias Cleland Through a Screen 18:23 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Kelleher-Poturalski-Correale Flurry 5:48 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Grayson Downing From the Slot
6:39 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Warren Foegele's Two Bids
8:29 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, UConn 0
Kyle Smith-3 (Assisted by Jamie Hill-1 & Harry Quast-7)
11:02 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, UConn 0 ~ Quast's stretch pass sent Hill off on a breakaway. ~ UConn goalie Rob Nichols made the initial save on Hill but Kyle Smith buried the rebound.
Tyler Kelleher's Steal and Shot 18:22 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, UConn 0
Grayson Downing-18 (Assisted by Matt Willows-14)
19:41 of 3rd Period - UNH 2, UConn 0 ~ Nichols attempted to clear a dump in but Matt Willows intercepted the puck and centered it. ~ Grasyon Downing collected the puck, deked around a UConn defender, and snipe one into the upper corner over Nichols' glove.