Sunday, October 11, 2015

Despite High Scoring Win Over AIC, UNH Wildcats Have Work To Do

UNH Junior Tyler Kelleher
2 Goals, 2 Assists

DURHAM, NH - The UNH Wildcats opened up the 2015-16 season with a 7-3 victory over American International College. The game was highlighted by a four-point night for both junior Tyler Kelleher and sophomore Andrew Poturalski. But before the stats run away with the story, I’m going to pull it back a bit. Or for that matter, I’ll let Head Coach Dick Umile's words speak for themselves.

“I was not happy with the way we played, especially for two periods”. Umile said in the post game press conference. “We didn’t play as well when we didn’t have the puck as I believe we can play; we will be working on that this week for sure”. He added.

Umile was visibly mad with the performance of his team early on. Admittedly, he was happy to start the season with a win, but he made sure that his team knew there was a lot of work to do.

UNH was in a hole, 2:03 into the second period when AIC Yellow Jackets' Bryant Christian pushed in a puck behind UNH goalie Danny Tirone. The sophomore goalie was handcuffed on a shot from the circle and couldn’t cover it up in time. The Wildcats were down 2-1.

Danny Tirone was off his game for the first half of play. He wasn’t reading shots well and seemed to be battling each puck that came his way. A big glove save on Austin Orszulak midway through the second period looked like it sparked Tirone, and got him into a rhythm for the rest of the game.

UNH responded in just fourteen seconds on a goal by freshmen defensemen Matt Dawson , for his first collegiate goal, as he fluttered a shot towards the net that deflected over the head of Alex Murray, the Yellow Jackets goalie, to tie the game at two.

At 8:51 of the second period, Kelleher picked up a rebound and scored his second goal of the game to give UNH a 3-2 lead.

The production of the UNH “second line” between Kelleher, Poturalski and Dan Correale is quite the threat for the Wildcats offense. The line mates combined for eight points on the night, including a Correale power play goal at 15:45 of the second period to extend the UNH lead to 4-2.

However, the domination of the UNH offense was overshadowed by the lack of defense being played. According to Umile that includes the talented line that put four goals on the board.

“They can score goals, but you’ve got to play defense too”, Umile said after the game.

UNH's defensive lapses were due, in part, to the defensemen jumping into offensive rushes through the neutral zone and into the AIC end. Sometimes this lead to scoring opportunities for the Wildcats. However, on multiple occasions, it resulted in up to four UNH players caught in the offensive zone as AIC transitioned up ice toward the UNH end.

At 11:25 of the third period Johno May scored for the Yellow Jackets on a highlight reel breakaway goal to beat Tirone and pull it back to a two-goal game, at 5-3.

UNH would add an empty net goal by Maxim Gaudreault at 18:45 of the third and another by Poturalski with .2 on the clock to take the 7-3 victory and move to 1-0 on the season.

Quietly, UNH freshman Marcus Vela had himself an outstanding game. Despite not making the score sheet, Vela was plus 1 and was a physical force as well as made multiple smart plays for the Wildcats both defensively and on offense. It seemed he was always reading the play well and was always around the puck. I look at him as a player to follow closely this year for UNH.

In the end, a win is a win for UNH, but there is plenty of work to be done before they make their way into Hockey East play.

Here are the video highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics:

Next up for the Wildcats are two home games against ECAC teams. St. Lawrence University is in town next Friday night and Clarkson University follows on Saturday night.


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