Saturday, November 21, 2015

UNH Blows Another Late Lead Despite Fixing Defensive Struggles, Ties UMass Amherst 2-2

UNH Defenseman Matias Cleland
Scored Game-Tying Goal

DURHAM, NH - UNH played arguably their best game this season, especially through the first two periods, and were able to handle the UMASS offense allowing only two goals. However the Wildcats still walked away with only one point for the third time in four Hockey East games.

UNH dominated play in the first period. From a defensive and offensive standpoint, the Wildcats were pushing the tempo and keeping the Minutemen on their heels. The transition game was 100% in favor of UNH, with defenseman jumping into the rush on multiple opportunities and forwards connecting on passes tape to tape. The only negative for UNH after the first period was the 8 shots on goal. However, they were able to sneak one past UMass goalie Nic Renyard at 10:19 of the firs.t

After a timeout on the ice, it looked like UNH executed exactly what they drew up. A faceoff win for Tyler Kelleher was placed on the stick of sophomore defenseman Cameron Marks at the point, who wristed a shot towards net where Andrew Poturalski crashed perfectly on the far post to tip it in for a 1-0 UNH lead. There were essentially no scoring chances for the Minutemen in the first twenty minutes.

The second period was more of the same. Despite an early defensive breakdown for UNH, they played well and dictated the game for 40 minutes. At 2:04 of the second period, UNH was caught with four men up ice and the Minutemen turned it into an odd man rush. After a shot was deflected down in front, freshman Kurt Keats cleaned up the garbage and tucked it under the arm of Danny Tirone to tie the game at one. It played along with the theme of the season of UNH having too many men joining the rush and not back checking in time.

Just over five minutes later UNH responded at 7:31 of the second with a four-on-four goal by Matias Cleland going top shelf over the glove of Renyerd. The play was created by the nations leading scorer, Tyler Kelleher, who patiently held the puck behind the net before Cleland snuck in from the blue line and found an open spot for the pass. It was Cleland's first goal of the season. UNH took a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.

After focusing on defense all week long in practice, UNH showed it helped by allowing only eight shots through two periods. It seemed like UNH should have been ahead by multiple goals at that point - they were outshooting UMass 22 to 8 - but they couldn't take advantage of their opportunities

In a sequence midway through the third period, UNH threatened to extend the lead with multiple shots on goal and drew a UMass charging penalty. However, during the UNH power play, the Minutemen were able to have more offensive possession on the penalty kill and from that point on, UMASS looked like the better team for the first time all night. They outshot the Wildcats 13-8 in the final stanza.

Two minutes after the UNH power play ended, UMass tied the game on a Shane Walsh goal at the 11:51 mark. Tirone made a fantastic save on an initial shot but the rebound was left in the crease. Walsh got a touch on it for his ninth goal of the season.

Both teams had power play opportunities in overtime, but came up empty and the game ended with a score of 2-2.

"We've got to stop blowing leads like that. It's starting to be a pattern and it's starting to be unacceptable." Tyler Kelleher said after the game.

Dick Umile, Matias Cleland and Tyler Kelleher all looked frustrated with leaving another point on the table in conference play.

The Wildcats remain undefeated in Hockey East with a record of 1-0-3. UNH has a much tougher task with #2 in the nation Boston College tomorrow night at the Whittemore Center.

Here are the video highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics:

Box Score


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