Monday, October 05, 2015

5 Unanswered Goals Spark UNH Win Over St. Francis Xavier

New Video Scoreboard Displays Final Score
UNH 6 St. Francis Xavier 4 

Written by Parker Wheeler:

DURHAM, NH - The Wildcats opened up their season with an exhibition matchup against the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men. Despite the game not counting at the end of the season, it may end up being one of the most memorable for a young Wildcat team, and possibly one it can learn a lot from.

Playing catch up all game long, the Wildcats rattled off five consecutive goals to end the game and walk out of the Whittemore Center with a 6-4 victory.

Early on in the game, UNH struggled to find their identity. With two freshmen - Marcus Vela and Ara Nazarian - inserted into the lineup and unfamiliar line combinations, it was obvious that the Wildcats weren’t comfortable.

The X-Men dominated the pace of play, along with the physical game and were able to get on the board at 7:18 of the first period on a wrap around goal by Eric Locke. Locke picked up the puck behind the net and pushed it past the outstretched body of UNH goalie Danny Tirone to put the X-Men up 1-0.

Sophomore defenseman Richard Boyd started the scoring for the Wildcats as he jumped up into the rush and received a pass from Collin MacDonald around the top of the circles. Boyd picked a corner on St. Francis Xavier goalie Brandon Hope with 3:55 remaining in the first period. Defensemen working with the offense was something the Wildcats focused on all night. The Wildcat defensemen took advantage of any opportunity to jump into the play on the rush, creating a surplus of scoring chances.

In the second period, the UNH defense had a tough time covering the X-Men in front of the net, often leaving players wide open for multiple shot opportunities on Tirone. At 4:35 of the second period, Nathan Pancel controlled a tipped shot from the point, which caused Tirone to react and caught him out of position. Tirone tried to lie down to stop the bouncing puck but it dribbled between his legs. St. Francis Xavier 2, UNH 1.

At 11:54 of the second, Eric Locke added his second goal of the night. Once again, he had all day to shoot in front of Tirone and deflected one off the post on Tirone’s glove side and into the back of the net. The Xmen extended the lead to 3-1.

When it seemed like the momentum and game was turning in favor of the X-Men, it got worse for the Wildcats. Just 15 seconds after Locke’s second goal, X-man Cory MacIntosh entered the offensive zone and threw a pass toward the front the net looking for a teammates stick. Instead, it deflected off the leg of UNH defenseman John Furgele and found the twine behind Tirone, giving St. Francis Xavier a three goal lead just over halfway through the second period.

It was obvious UNH needed a spark and that they were a young team that didn’t look like they were handling adversity well.

The spark came at the end of the second period with 3:08 remaining on the clock. Defenseman Dylan Maller took the puck from his own end and began a rush up ice with Shane Eiserman. Wisely, Maller carried the puck through the neutral zone and cut to the far side of the ice from his teammate Eiserman. The ice opened up in front of Maller and he had multiple options as he entered the offensive zone. As both reached the circles, Maller perfectly placed a pass in Eisermans wheelhouse, who opened his hips to the puck and buried a one timer in the back of the net. Again, this was an example of Wildcat defensemen jumping into the play and creating offense.

After the game, Eiserman talked about the communication on the bench and how the players were looking for a big play to get them going and in the end, he was the one that turned the game around.

As the third period began, the Wildcats looked like a new team. They looked confident taking over the game with speed and quick puck movement. This caused St. Francis Xavier to take unnecessary penalties and led to more offense for UNH. Danny Tirone’s day was over after making 14 saves on 18 shots. He gave way to sophomore goalie Adam Clark, who would finish with six saves on six shots.

As if you knew where I was going with the next goal for the Wildcats, it was defenseman Harry Quast who followed the puck off of blocked shots in front of the net and rocketed a wrist shot to the blocker side of Hope to make the score 4-3 in favor of the X-Men.

Last year's freshman phenom Andrew Poturalski tied the game at 7:28 of the third period as he got the puck on his forehand just below the circle on a feed from Tyler Kelleher. Poturalski made no mistake, placing it right beneath the blocker of Hope. There was no doubt UNH had taken over the game and wasn’t giving it back.

Eiserman added his second goal of the game to give UNH a 5-4 lead and defenseman Matias Cleland added an insurance goal as the Wildcats completed a comeback, 6-4 victory in their exhibition game.

UNH's slow start early in the game is something they need to prevent as the season progresses or they will find themselves in trouble. However, seeing a young team rally together and mount a big comeback is an encouraging sign, especially early in the season. The Wildcats are back in action next Saturday night, when they face off against American International College in the first official game of the season at the Whittemore Center.

Here are the video highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics:


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