Monday, November 30, 2015

UNH Captain's Corner: The Thanksgiving Stretch

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

The 2015-16 UNH hockey team returned to the Whittemore Center following a six-game road trip with hopes of improving their 3-4-2 overall record. As they entered the November 20th game against UMass Amherst, the Wildcats were undefeated in Hockey East competition having defeated Merrimack College and logging ties with Merrimack and UMass.

UNH carried a 2-1 lead into the third period against the Minutemen on goals by sophomore Andrew Poturalski and junior defenseman Matias Cleland. However, the Wildcats surrendered the game-tying goal with 8 minutes remaining in regulation. Here's a link to Parker Wheeler's game report from our blog:

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

Next up in the 4 games in 9 days stretch was the #2 ranked team in the nation - Boston College. Over the first two periods and late into the final stanza, UNH hung with the Eagles. They only trailed 3-2 thanks to goals by two defensemen - freshman Matt Dawson and sophomore John Furgele. BC struck for 2 quick goals at the 14:31 and 15:12 marks and won 6-3. Here's Parker's game report:

"UNH Falls 6-3 to #2 BC"

Just 3 days later, UNH made the long drive to Troy, New York to face long-time foe Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Engineers had handed Boston College it's only loss earlier in the season and were riding a seven-game unbeaten streak which included two wins over Union College and victories over St. Lawrence, Yale, and Bentley. After falling behind 3-0, UNH stormed back on a hat trick from Andrew Poturalski. Once again, UNH gave up a costly goal late in the third period for it's 6th loss of the season. Here's a link to my game summary:

"Poturalski Scores Hat Trick; Tirone Struggles; RPI 4, UNH 3"

Just two days after Thanksgiving, UNH capped it's four-game stretch with a 5-4 win over Bentley University Saturday night at the Whittemore Center. This time, UNH took the lead midway through the third period on a goal by senior Alternate Captain Maxim Gaudreault and managed to hold on for a 5-4 victory. Here's Parker's game report:

"The UNH Wildcats' Offense Came Up Big Once Again In Win Over Bentley"

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the recent stretch of games:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): The team just completed a busy schedule of 4 games in 9 days - a 2-2 tie with UMass, losses to Boston College and RPI, and a win against Bentley - with Thanksgiving Day in the middle of it. Are there positives that you take away from that stretch? What were the disappointments?

Collin MacDonald: We’ve played some really good hockey at times over the last four games. It’s not hard to figure out that we’ve struggled at times also, mostly in the third period. We were happy to pull out a win on Saturday, but we definitely didn’t play our best game. Coach talks about eliminating the mental breakdowns that result in pucks in the back of our net, and we need to keep working to diminish them if we’re going to have success moving forward.

Mike Lowry: In each of those 4 games, the outcome was decided in the final period. UMass tied the game with 8 minutes remaining in the third period, BC pulled away with 3 goals over the final 6 minutes, and RPI notched the game-winner with 4 minutes left on the clock. What does the team need to do better to avoid those types of last-minute setbacks?

Collin MacDonald: Just knowing where we’re at in the game and not trying to do too much will help. We’ve made some mistakes at key times, myself included, that have ultimately cost us games. We just have to learn from them, and try to use them to help us in the future.

Lowry: The team is dealing with several injuries. Sophomore goalie Adam Clark has been out of the lineup since the first week in November with a shoulder injury. Junior defenseman Dylan Maller has missed the last 3 games with a foot injury. You did not dress last night because of a knee injury and Coach Umile said that sophomore defenseman Cameron Marks may have gotten hurt in Saturday night's game. What's the status of those four player's injuries and when might we see them back in the lineup?

MacDonald: We’re all working hard to get healthy as soon as possible. Obviously we all want to play, but have to be cleared in order to do so. I’m really not sure about the return of Clark, Maller, and Marks. Like I said, I know they’re putting in the work to get back, but I can’t give a return date for any of them. I can speak for myself by saying that I plan to be back for this weekend, but I’m not going to jeopardize the team’s success by playing if I’m not ready.

Lowry: Since I've been following UNH hockey, two top lines have stood out as prolific, scoring machines. In the 1973-74 season, Gordie Clark (25G, 28A), Jamie Hislop (21G, 35A), and Cliff Cox (27G, 30A) were virtually unstoppable. During the 1999 run to the NCAA Championship Game, the combination of Jason Krog (34G, 51A), Mike Souza (23G, 42A), and Darren Haydar (31G, 30A) was the top line in the nation. Now, sophomore Andrew Poturalski (13G, 11A) is the leading scorer in NCAA Division I hockey, Tyler Kelleher (6G, 17A) is the second leading scorer, and Dan Correale (8G, 2A) is tied for 5th in goal scoring. If you were an opposing coach, what would you try to do to shut down the Poturalski-Kelleher-Correale line?

MacDonald: All I’ll say is I’m happy I’m not an opposing coach because I really don’t know the answer to that. That line is a threat every time they touch the ice. They dominate 5v5, they dominate on the power play, all three guys play a role on our penalty kill, and they’re still a threat to score when we’re shorthanded.

Lowry: Speaking of coaching, I noticed that you were standing alongside Coach Umile and Souza behind the bench during the game on Saturday night. What was that like for you?

MacDonald: The guys and I joked about it quite a bit, but coach knows how upset I was that I couldn’t play, especially given my experience with injuries. He knows how important it is to me to be around the guys. Coach Stewart was recruiting so Coach Umile offered for me to come on the bench. It was a cool experience, and I appreciated coach letting me do that.


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